Jamie Cook (ADAMH Public Relations) & Patti Waits (ADAMH Consumer and Family Advocate)
Winter months in our area are known for being bleak and cold. The days seem shorter after Daylight Saving Time ended, yet the weeks seem to drag on. It’s cold and flu season. It’s hat, glove, sweater, parka, and boots season. It’s car scraping, slush wading, and high electricity bill paying season. Let’s face it, winter can be pretty depressing.
Actually, it’s normal for us to feel a little blue as we anticipate those long cold months between November and March. There are small things we can do to help ourselves hold on until spring. Many people find their moods improved when they do simple things like wearing bright colors, or putting on their winter trappings and going for a walk outside. Cold weather makes the average person want to hibernate and isolate, so keeping appointments with your friends and family despite the natural inclination to stay indoors will help keep you connected and give you a valuable support system. Winter is also the perfect time to pick up a new and challenging project that keeps your mind engaged.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):
While everyone is susceptible to the occasional “winter blues,” some people have lingering bouts of a specific type of depression related to the season called “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (also known as SAD.) Some common symptoms of SAD include:
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
- Social Withdrawal
- Weight Gain
SAD symptoms are tied to the season and usually go away during the spring thaw as the weather improves and the sun shines. However, it’s important that people visit a professional if they suspect they are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, as any symptoms of depression warrant a professional’s assessment.
If you are diagnosed with SAD, your doctor may recommend phototherapy, also known as bright light therapy. This type of treatment requires you to sit in front of a box that emits a bright light for a number of hours each day in order to improve the symptoms of the disorder. It is not recommended that people seek out the lights of a tanning bed to increase their sun light exposure, since a tanning bed does not filter UV rays.
Many physicians combine the phototherapy treatment with an anti-depressant in order to better manage the symptoms of SAD.
What to do if you suspect you have SAD:
If you suspect that you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, don’t hesitate to seek out a professional who can help you manage your symptoms of depression. The ADAMH board can help connect you with community agencies that have appropriate resources for managing these feelings. Please contact us at 740-654-0829.