Have you ever noticed that you or somebody that you know seems to get the winter blues every year? This could be because of a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a medical condition caused by insufficient exposure to sunlight resulting in low levels of melatonin and serotonin, abnormalities of cortisol, carbohydrate craving, weight gain, and sleep disturbance.
You may feel sad but how do you know if you have SAD? When the days get shorter, is there a change in your sleeping patterns? Do you oversleep and when you wake up you feel like you never slept? Can you get out of bed in the morning? Can you make it through the day without an afternoon nap? Maybe you attribute the change in your sleeping habits to an increase in work or school pressures, however if you notice that this is a pattern that you experience every year then you should take notice. You might have the symptoms of SAD.
People who are SAD experience depression. Many times it feels despair, with feelings of misery, guilt, anxiety, or hopelessness.
Maybe you are more irritable lately or have a lack of emotion due to your pervasive sadness? If you notice that normal tasks are difficult to do and that you are withdrawing from friends and family you should get professional help.
Other symptoms to mention are:
Physical Problems: joint pain, stomach problems, lowered resistance to infection, weight gain, premenstrual syndrome (worsens or only occurs in winter).
Behavioral Problems: Changes in appetite, including: increased appetite and carbohydrate craving, a loss of interest in sexual activity, difficulty concentrating on tasks.
SAD affects approximately 10 million people in the United States alone. It was first diagnosed in 1984 and is now a wildly recognized disorder. SAD is more prevalent in the northeastern parts of the United States. Seasonal Affect Disorder lessons in intensity and oftentimes goes away when the sunshine returns.
Those who are affected with this condition however do not have to suffer! There is treatment available. A visit to your doctor and an appointment with a counselor will dramatically help you.
The following treatments have been proven to be effective
- Eating a low-fat diet, without too much protein
- Taking a daily vitamin that contains magnesium, B complex, and minerals, and Saint John’s Wort.
- Eliminating caffeine and refined sugars and flours
- Exercise and spending about 30 minutes per day in the sun and fresh air
- Professional counseling to help alleviate stress
- Increasing involvement in activities and events that involve being around other people
If you or a friend is one of the 10 million people who suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder you now have been informed with information that can help. Click here for more information.
Feel free to contact us at the Crossroads Counseling Center to make an appointment with a counselor who is able to understand your needs.