Friday, September 24, 2010

The Winter Blues Just Might Make You SAD.

Ever get that feeling of melancholy during the fall, and lasting into the winter months? If you do, this could be more than just the Winter could be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a form of depression that can sap your energy, decrease your motivation, and send you firmly into a winter funk.

As the leaves begin to change, and the chilly bite of fall is in the air, it's fitting to discuss Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly referred to as "SAD".  SAD is a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year and can be debilitating. Most people suffering from this disorder show signs in the fall and throughout the winter months. Less frequently, you might experience this increased depression in the spring/summer months. The key to this disorder is that the increase in depressive symptoms occurs at the same time each year.  There is treatment available for SAD, and handing this problem appropriately through phototherapy (light therapy), psychotherapy and medications, can help you maintain a stable mood all year long.

According to the, there are several types of SAD that you could experience.

* Fall and Winter Seasonal Affective disorder, also known as winter depression includes symptoms such as:
      - increased feelings of sadness and hopelessness
     - decreased energy
      - isolating or withdrawing from social situations
      - lack of interested in previously enjoyed activities
      -  weight gain
      - increased sleep
      - problems with concentration and thinking clearly

*Spring and Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as summer depression, is somewhat different, ad includes symptoms such as:
     - Anxiety
     - Trouble with sleep
     - Agitation and irritation
     - Poor appetite and wight loss
     - Increased sex drive

* Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a third type of mood disturbance, can include what is known as mania, or hypo mania. This means the mood is elevated, thoughts and speech can be racing or rapid, and agitation can be present. Other symptoms include:
     -Increased social activity
     - Hyperactivity
     - Elevated mood

You might be at elevated risk for SAD if you are female, you have a family history of SAD, and the farther away from the equator you are located. It is believed that this may be, in part, due to your chemical makeup, your age, and things such as your Melatonin and Serotonin levels (chemicals that help regulate sleep and mood), and your natural biological clock (or Circadian rhythms).  

If you have some days during the fall/winter where you feel blue, it may be perfectly normal. However, if you feel depressed for days and days and cannot snap out of it, you may need to see a doctor. If it worsens, or you have changes in your sleep habits, increases in drug or alcohol usage, or thoughts of hopelessness or suicide, you should seek help from a your doctor or a psychologist. 

Treatments for SAD include medications, most commonly antidepressants. Keep in mind that it may take several weeks for antidepressants to reach their maximum effectiveness and you should continue to take the medication until the doctor tells you to decrease or stop.  Another important component in your treatment is psychotherapy with a skilled psychologist.  This will help you learn ways to cope with your feelings of depression, identify negative thought patterns that make you more depressed, and learn strategies to improve your mood.  Finally, light therapy (also known as photo therapy) can be used. This treatment consists of sitting a few feet from a special light box so that you receive a certain level of light. This is different than a regular lamp and needs to be purchased specifically for this purpose.  Check with your physician or psychologist before purchasing a light therapy box.

SAD can be a debilitating and difficult disorder, but, as with other forms of depression, HELP IS AVAILABLE.



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