The Winter Blues

Have you ever had a feeling of sadness during the long, cold days of winter? Were you sluggish and lethargic? If so, youman_thinking_slider4 could have been experiencing “the winter blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that usually diminishes in the spring and summer months when there is increased exposure to light.

Not all people have the same symptoms of SAD, and the signs may appear gradually or all at once. Symptoms may include fatigue, lack of interest in activities, social withdrawal, craving foods high in carbohydrates, and weight gain. Women are more likely than men to experience indicators of SAD, and the majority of cases appear in those age 18 to 30, with few occurrences in older adults.

The cause of SAD has been connected to a biochemical change in the brain due to decreased sunlight. In addition, Melatonin, which is a hormone related to the sleep cycle and is present in persons with depression, has been associated with SAD. The production of Melatonin increases with decreased light, therefore triggering signs of depression. Although symptoms may begin as early as August, January and February appear to be the most difficult months for those suffering from SAD.

Light therapy has proven to be successful in many SAD patients. This may be as simple as getting outside more or working in front of a window. For those who need more advanced treatment, exposure to artificial light or a “light box”, which simulates sunlight, is an effective form of treatment. In some instances, the use of antidepressants may also be necessary.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a treatable and manageable condition. Please consult with a mental health professional or your physician if you are experiencing what you believe to be symptoms of SAD. If you feel that your depression is severe, or you have suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately or call 911.

 

Sources:

National Institute of Health: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/seasonalaffectivedisorder.html

Psychiatry.org: http://www.psychiatry.org/seasonal-affective-disorder

National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=23051

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