The straight facts about the winter blues.
Is it a struggle to fall asleep at night, stay asleep through out the night, and hard to leave the bed in the morning? Do you care less about how you look, taking the kids to school with a coat thrown over your pajamas? Are you crying more and laughing less? Struggling to do the things you usually enjoy?
You may have Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. One out of ten people living at the northern most latitudes of the United States are affected by this type of depression. There is a genetic component to SAD in certain families. Individuals with Swedish Ancestry have a 20% chance of developing SAD during the winter months.
Medical professionals notice the symptoms become more intense as the winter progresses, and sometimes do not go away in the spring and summer months. In fact, some people with SAD also experience an increase in anxiety in the summer months. The low sunlight of the winter months can cause a severe change in our normal sleep cycle or circadian rhythm. Once this change grabs hold, it is more difficult to counteract. SAD causes shifts in the biochemistry of the brain.
Winter SAD (Winter Depression)
Here is a list of the symptoms of winter-onset seasonal affective disorder:
- Loss of energy
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating and processing information
Spring and Summer SAD (Summer Depression)
Symptoms of summer-onset seasonal affective disorder include:
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Increased sex drive
When to seek treatment?
A basic rule of thumb in any depression is to seek professional treatment after toughing it out for two weeks. Seek help sooner if you also notice suicidal thoughts, inability to function in your professional or personal life, a desire to spend more time alone, and/or and a behavior change such as seeking relief though substance abuse.
There is hope in treating SAD. Here is the mental health professionalís arsenal of steps known to help most people:
Light therapy, sitting in front of a special light box each morning for 30 minutes has been found to be effective for 50% of SAD sufferers.
Medicines, there are several medications anti-depressant and anti-anxiety proven effective in treating SAD.
Psychotherapy, finding a competent mental health professional to work with to address overcoming the various symptoms of SAD including strategies to overcome social isolation and inactivity, frequently difficult for SAD sufferers in the winter months.
Sammamish Counseling has highly skilled Clinical Social Workers who provide successful treatment for individuals diagnosed with SAD. Call us today at 425-391-7870.
"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain."