Has winter got you SAD?

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

If you’re anything like me, this winter is starting to get on your nerves and get you down. As the season drags on, you wonder if you’ll ever feel “up” again. You could have a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), commonly called "Cabin Fever" or "Winter Blues". Research supports the causes of SAD to be an interruption of your body's internal clock, melatonin production increase, and a drop in the production of serotonin. SAD symptoms will start as soon as it becomes colder and the days shorter, but you might not have noticed them with all the demands of the holiday season going on. Here is a list of what to watch for:

  • Depression - We all have sad, down days, but you seem to have more.
  • Hopelessness - I think of this as a big let-down, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and the expectation that tomorrow won't be any better than today.
  • Anxiety - You are worried, anxious and sometimes even fearful.
  • Loss of energy - It's funny that this is more a feeling than an actual physical sensation.
  • Social withdrawal - You don't feel like going to lunch with coworkers or to the mall or skiing on the weekend.
  • Oversleeping - You go to bed early and hit the snooze button more than a few times. You take a nap whenever you possibly can. (In depression, this is a change of sleep pattern - you may sleep a lot more or a lot less.)
  • Loss of interest - What used to be enjoyed and anticipated is now something you don't want to bother with.
  • Appetite changes - You may eat a lot more or a lot less now, and SAD adds in a powerful craving for starches and carbohydrates (different from depression).
  • Weight gain - Since all you're eating is carbs, the weight goes up.
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information - The cotton-between-the-ears, jet-lagged feeling.
Medically, if many of these symptoms exist and persist or worsen over a two week period, then antidepressants may be a course of treatment for you. You may even consider starting antidepressants before you start to feel symptoms of SAD if this happens every year. Make an appointment with your doctor. There are other things you can do to help:
  • Open the curtains and blinds and let the sun shine in!
  • Go outside as much as possible. Even a half hour during lunch can work wonders.
  • Get some exercise and work on getting fit.
  • Get enough rest and relaxation, eat healthy, and stay away from drugs and alcohol. Note that carbs and caffeine bring you up for awhile, then you crash.
  • Spend time with friends and supportive family members. A good laugh is always a boost.
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