Let’s face it, when the sun is shining, you tend to have more energy and feel better. During the winter months when it’s dark and cold, many people tend to hibernate, like our furry friends. But feeling lethargic, irritable and moody are not symptoms to hide from. In fact, these symptoms, often referred to as the winter blues, are indicators of a very real condition.
- Do you have a lack of energy?
- Do you have a feeling of guilt or self-doubt?
- Do you have trouble concentrating?
- Are you feeling tired and lackluster?
- Do you want to be alone?
- Have you had a change in appetite or your weight?
- Have you lost interest in activities you normally enjoy?
- Do you have thoughts of suicide? (Please call 911 immediately)
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is triggered seasonally. Symptoms usually begin in late fall or early winter. This illness is more commonly seen in people who live in cloudy regions or at high latitudes (locations farther north or south of the equator). One theory is that with less exposure to sunlight, the internal biological clock that regulates mood, sleep, and hormones is shifted. Another theory is that brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, such as serotonin) that transmit information between nerves may be changed in people with SAD.*
Is SAD common?
- SAD may affect as many as 20 percent of the population to some degree.
- Four to six percent have it badly enough to warrant medical treatment.
- A small percentage experience SAD in the summer.
- SAD is 4 times more common in women than in men.
- Although some children and teenagers get SAD, it usually doesn’t start in people younger than age 20.
- SAD seems to be genetic, and you are more likely to get it if a relative has it.
Can you treat SAD?
Yes, there are 3 treatments that could be used, or a combination of them.
- Light therapy
- Behavior therapy
Living with SAD
You can still enjoy all the things in life you love to do when you plan ahead and manage your symptoms. In an article from familydoctors.org, they give the following 9 key tips on how to live with SAD:
Follow your treatment plan. This includes going to appointments, taking your medications as prescribed, and following up if things aren’t working.
Take care of your body. Eat healthy foods and get enough sleep. Exercise has been shown to have the same effect on depression as antidepressants.
Have a plan. Know what you will do when your depression symptoms start to get worse. Watch for early signs and take action before it takes control.
Don’t turn to alcohol or drugs. They make depression worse. They can also have negative reactions with antidepressants.
Manage stress. You can’t avoid stress, so you have to learn to manage it. Talk to a counselor or read about ways to handle stress better.
Don’t isolate. It’s harder to be social when you’re depressed. But being alone can make you feel worse. Try to reach out as much as you can.
Start treatment early. If you know your symptoms usually start in October, start your treatments in September, before symptoms start. You might be able to prevent them.
Plan ahead. Some people purposely plan their lives to be very busy during the time they normally feel down. This helps prevent them from “hiding out” at home, because they have already made commitments.
Take a trip. Plan a trip to a warmer, sunnier climate during the winter. The positive feelings will extend before, during, and after your trip.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can affect your quality of life and relationships if it goes untreated. It’s important to schedule an appointment with your provider and discuss any questions, concerns or symptoms you may be experiencing. Hudson Physicians is here to help!
*Source: Cleveland Clinic, UCI Health, FamilyDoctor.org