Have you ever experienced feelings of unexplained sadness and energy loss during Winter? How can you tell if these feelings are your body’s normal reaction to the elevated stress associated with the Winter holidays or something more?
Everyone feels the blues sometimes, but those who with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) experience symptoms that go far beyond general moodiness. SAD is a type of depression related to changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months subsiding around April or May, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. SAD affects 10 million American adults. As many as one in 10 people experience the disorder in states where the climates are colder and cloudier. Anyone can get SAD, but it’s more common in:
- People who live far from the equator, where winter daylight hours are very short.
- People between the ages of 15 and 55.
- People who have a close relative with SAD.
Experts aren’t sure what causes SAD. But they think it may be caused by a lack of sunlight. Lack of light may upset your “biological clock,” which controls your sleep-wake pattern. Lack of sunlight may also cause problems with serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood.
Some symptoms of SAD include, but are not limited to:
- Feel sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious.
- Lose interest in your usual activities.
- Eat more and crave carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta.
- Gain weight.
- Sleep more but still feel tired.
- Have trouble concentrating.
There are 3 main courses of treatment for this disorder Light therapy, Anti Depressants and/or Counseling. Light Therapy is used in the absence of natural sunlight to stimulate serotonin levels. The light box is placed at a certain distance on a desk or table as the SAD sufferer sits in front of it as they read, eat breakfast, or work at a computer. Light therapy is usually prescribed for 30 minutes to 2 hours a day. The patient may start to feel better within a week or so after starting light therapy. Regardless the chosen course of treatment, the patient needs to stay with it and follow the prescribed guidelines every day until the season changes. If they don’t, the depression could come back.
Can anything be done in addition to the fore mentioned treatment actions listed above to ease the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Getting more sunlight may help as well, so try to get outside to exercise when the sun is shining. Being active during the daytime, especially early in the day, may help you have more energy and feel less depressed.
Consult a physician right away if you think you may suffer from SAD. You don’t have to live with the impending fear of the Winter months. Take care of yourself and be mindful of others around you that may be dealing with this debilitating disorder.
Nicole M. Brown, RN
Founder: The Nurse Dolls
Founder: Nursing Success College