Seasonal Affective Disorder: How to combat the blues this winter
Published: Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 17:12
Occasionally we all may feel a little tired, a little run down and even a little blue at times. At one time or another, we all have been a little sad. However, when we start to feel sad each year during the fall and winter months, we could have a type of depression: “winter depression,” known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
The Mayo Clinic notes that some of the symptoms of this type of “winter depression” can include: physical difficulties, such as loss of energy, a heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs, oversleeping, appetite changes, and weight gain; or mental and social problems, such as depression, a feeling of hopelessness, anxiety, social withdrawal, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, and difficulty concentrating.
According to Mayo Clinic, SAD can affect some people in the spring and summer months as well. This type of seasonal affective disorder, “summer depression,” occurs during the spring and summer months. Mayo Clinic notes some of the symptoms of “summer depression,” as anxiety, insomnia, irritability, agitation, weight loss, poor appetite and increased sex drive.
Seasonal affective disorder is known as a mental health condition and the cause of seasonal affective disorder is unknown, according to Mayo Clinic. There are certain factors that have an influence on getting the disorder or not, such as your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may disrupt your body's internal clock, which lets you know when you should sleep or be awake. This disruption of your circadian rhythm may lead to feelings of depression.
According to Mayo Clinic, “a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in seasonal affective disorder. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the natural hormone melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood. Age and genetics can be factored in as well.”
According to a TN Gov. article, “Is Winter Making You Sad?,” “Six percent of people experience seasonal affective disorder a year. A person with SAD should keep their energy level motivated by setting a regular sleep schedule, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of exercise during the winter months.”
Diagnosing and treating SAD can only be done by the proper medical professionals. If you feel any lingering sadness at any time, contact your doctor.
“As far as what we see we have not officially diagnosed anyone with SAD, but many of the students that are diagnosed with depression the season changes definitely affect mood swings,” said Jenifer Hart, Clinical Coordinator of Student Health and Counseling Services.
Also according to Hart, this disease can be combated by implementing certain habits.
“With any student that has depression, exercise and time outside is recommended. Everyone needs Vitamin D and daylight time. … SAD and depression may not be preventable, but they are manageable,” Hart said.
If you think you are affected with SAD, call SHCS at 881-7750 to make an appointment for a consult or assessment.
For further information regarding seasonal affective disorder, go to www.mayoclinic.com/seasonalaffectivedisorder.