Feeling Blue?

You may have noticed a draining, dim, and uninspiring feeling that comes along with the rainy and colder months.  When the snow piles up and you’re snowed in your house for days; or when you finally clock out from your workday, and the sky is as dark as midnight. There may be something looming over you, and it may not be the next storm cloud.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also called SAD, is a seasonal depression that tends to come during the colder months. While SAD can affect a person during any season, it most frequently occurs during the fall and winter, when the days are shorter and the sun sets earlier.  

What Causes SAD?

There are several contributing factors as to why someone may develop SAD. Because SAD typically comes with the change of season, factors that may influence your mood include:

  • Circadian Rhythm – This is your body’s internal clock (what wakes you up at 7am every morning, even before your alarm) and is responsible for aiding your sleep schedule. When the season changes, and it begins to get darker earlier in the day, your internal clock may become disrupted and  you may find yourself more irritable or tired.
  • Lack of Serotonin – Serotonin is a hormone produced by our bodies that impacts your mood, as well as other parts of your body including your sleep cycle, and even your digestive process.  Reduced sunlight may lead to a drop in serotonin, which may result in depression.
  • Lack of Melatonin – A change in season can also cause a change in melatonin levels in your body. Melatonin contributes to making you feel tired at night, and  plays a role in helping to maintain your sleep patterns.
  • Mood Disorders or Depression -- SAD may be more frequent in those who are already diagnosed with another mood disorder, like bipolar disorder, and those who have a family history of depression.
  • Age and Gender --SAD is more often diagnosed in women than in men, and also occurs more often in younger adults.

What are the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Symptoms may differ depending on the time of the year you experience SAD. General symptoms of this disorder include:

  • Feeling depressed
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Having low energy or feeling sluggish
  • Insomnia
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling isolated, hopeless, worthless, or guilty
  • Having suicidal thoughts, or thoughts of death
  • Oversleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation

Treatment

Feeling a little down occasionally is part of daily life, however, if you experience depression for an extended period of time, or have thoughts about death or suicide, don’t wait to speak with your health care provider. There are several treatment options for Seasonal Affective Disorder that you can discuss with your physician. These treatments may include:

  • Light therapy – exposure to light that mimics sunlight, usually administered within the first hour you are awake during the day. This can cause a change in chemicals in the brain that are linked to mood, and help you feel more motivated, and less depressed.

  • Medications – antidepressants or antianxiety medications prescribed by your doctor may help during your SAD episodes.

  • Psychotherapy – cognitive behavioral techniques to help change  negative thoughts or behaviors and to assist with managing stress.
  • Mind-body connection – techniques like yoga, meditation, and other relaxation techniques.

If you are suffering with SAD, speak with your health care provider. Your provider may perform a physical exam, laboratory tests and discuss your symptoms with you. With treatment and coping mechanisms, you can begin to enjoy your days again – no matter the season!

You can come into any Patient First center from 8 am 10 pm at any day of the year - no appointment needed.

 

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