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Winter Time Blues

posted Jan 22, 2015, 10:30 AM by carlee schmelzer

Carlee Schmelzer


As temperatures dwindle during winter, so does everyone’s enthusiasm for the season. To choose between being a shut-in for months on end or a popsicle as soon as you walk out the door is a difficult decision for anyone to make, and could ultimately lead to deeper psychological problems.

Seasonal affective disorder, appropriately acronymed SAD, is a type of depression that accompanies a change in season. In the Midwest, SAD is most prevalent with the onset of the winter season, but has been known to cause depression, much less frequently, in the spring or early summer. Approximately one-half million of the U.S. population suffers from winter SAD, and three-quarters of the sufferers are women. The onset typically is early adulthood but SAD can also occur in children and adolescents. Older adults are less likely to experience SAD. This illness is more commonly seen in people who live in cloudy regions, making Ohio’s gray skies a breeding ground for SAD.

Many people with the disorder do not even know they have it, due to the fact that most of the symptoms can be written off as cabin-fever or a seasonal funk. According to the Neurological Institute at the Cleveland Clinic the symptoms include:

  • Sadness

  • Anxiety

  • irritability

  • loss of interest in usual activities

  • withdrawal from social activities

  • inability to concentrate

  • extreme fatigue and lack of energy

  • a “leaden” sensation in the limbs

  • increased need for sleep

  • craving for carbohydrates, and accompanying weight gain.

Symptoms of summer SAD include:

  • weight loss

  • agitation and restlessness

  • trouble sleeping

  • decreased appetite

After reading that list  you are probably thinking that most of the people in your life, including yourself may have seasonal affective disorder, but this is not the case. It is normal to have days that you feel down in the dumps, but when these feelings last for days on end and you no longer have the motivation to do things you once enjoyed, then it is time to see a doctor.  This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed or if you feel hopeless, think about suicide, or turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation.

   

If diagnosed, doctors have many ways to get you out of this seasonal shlump. SAD is easily curable, sometimes as easy as laughing. A natural mood enhancer, laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals, which help support a positive sense of well-being. Experts suggest that just 10 minutes of laughter a day will help keep the winter blues away. Regular exercise releases these same mood enhancing endorphins to improve your state of mind as well as improving your overall health. Another effective way to rid yourself of SAD is to

 take Vitamin D supplements as your doctors orders. Too much Vitamin D can have an adverse affect on your body. Doctors often refer to Vitamin D as the “sunshine vitamin” as it will provide you with the same vitamin you get from the suns rays. It can be taken when sunlight is limited as it so often is during the winter. Light therapy is also an effective way to get your prescribed dose of Vitamin D. Experts suggest that increased exposure to full-spectrum light can help alleviate many of the effects of seasonal depression. Many physicians recommend a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of light exposure each day with a minimum light intensity of 10,000 Lux in order to sway symptoms of seasonal depression. Light therapy is a safe method of treating SAD, and patients usually reach full benefits within two to four weeks of starting treatment.

    While the winter months continue, remember to be wary of lurking SAD and seek professional help if you think you may have the disorder. We all just have to take it one winter at a time!

image courtesy of nbclatino.com fair use
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