Seasonal Depression (SAD)
By: Jennifer Derwin, LMSW, Case Manager, Melissa Gomez, Peer Support Specialist Newaygo County Mental Health
During September, the Northern Hemisphere begins in slow march towards the shortest day of the year. The day-by day loss of light, as well as ever-colder weather and the stress of the holidays (of sadness after the holidays have ended) can devastate us emotionally.
"Most of us experience the winter blues more or less to a degree," Angelos Halaris, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist at the Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, told weather.com. "We suffer from what's called cabin fever — a low mood, not too much energy to get anything done; we're looking forward to March and April when hopefully spring will be in the air."
It may seem like the only option for those suffering from depression during the winter is to suffer through until the spring. That’s not only untrue but can be harmful as well.
Research on SAD reports that reduced serotonin, which helps regulate mood, and producing too much melatonin, which increases sleepiness, both seem to be factors that attribute to SAD. Both of these help maintain the body’s daily rhythm, but when they cannot adjust to the seasonal changes in day length it begins to affect sleep, mood and behavior. Add in the lack of Vitamin D because of the decreased daylight in the winter which can further hinder serotonin activity.
Similar to Major depression, seasonal depression can be treated quite effectively. In fact, here are some ways that could help:
In Severe cases, Antidepressant medication, prescribed by your doctor, can be helpful.
Some specific signs and symptoms of winter-pattern seasonal depression include:
Seasonal depression is a real thing. Seasonal depression is not only classified as a medical mood disorder by the National Institute of Mental Health, but there is also a wealth of research on the subject. Seasonal depression is most common from late fall to early winter.
As with all mental illnesses, each person can experience different symptoms and each of us is unique in how we can manage and cope. Treatments for SAD can be provided by your primary care provider or mental health specialist. Treatments include; light therapy, psychotherapy, antidepressant medications and Vitamin D supplements.
If you are experiencing symptoms of SAD, you can reach out to Newaygo County Mental Health for assistance by calling (231) 689-7330. Together we can trudge through this season.
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