It is that point in the winter. You are so done with the grey skies and gloomy weather. For a while you were hanging in there, but your loss of energy, change in appetite and oversleeping are worsening. Suddenly, we have a sunny, 65 degree day and you feel you are on top of the world! When the cloudy days return, so does your gloomy mood. These symptoms, and others, may be indicating Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a seasonal, cyclic condition. The signs and symptoms usually occur every year at about the same time and then dissipate during warmer, sunnier days. Insufficient exposure to sunlight has been associated with symptoms of SAD.
The notable symptoms are:
-Feelings of depression, anxiety or hopelessness
-Loss of energy/fatigue
-Change in sleep pattern (often sleeping too much)
-Appetite changes/possible increase in craving for high carbohydrate foods
Although this may be a pattern for you that every fall and winter you feel the “winter blues”, you do not have to suffer through it or move to Florida to feel better.
There are two suspected culprits of SAD. First are disturbances of the normal circadian rhythm of the body. During winter, a substance called melatonin, which causes the drowsiness we naturally feel after dusk, has more time to produce due to less exposure to light.
Secondly, there is evidence that the neurotransmitter serotonin is reduced. This neurotransmitter helps us to feel good. Reduce that, reduce how good we feel! Serotonin is the substance that is increased by anti-depressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Treatments for SAD can be light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or pharmacotherapy. You should discuss any treatment interventions with your doctor first.
Because one of the explanations for SAD may be the decreased seasonal exposure to light, light therapy has been considered to be a possible intervention. There are specific light therapy units designed to treat SAD, which should be considered. Other types of lighting may not provide enough light or have appropriate ultraviolet light filtration.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also be an effective intervention for SAD, as SAD may be also be accompanied by a general mood disorder. During CBT, the client receives help for distorted thoughts that have caused interference in mood. They receive information to improve coping skills to deal with the thoughts.
Finally, people suffering from SAD may benefit from pharmacotherapy. Because people with SAD must meet the criteria for depression, treatment with an anti-depressant can be useful. Why? Your body’s natural chemical makeup may be playing a role in developing this disorder. Also, other co-existing disorders may be present.
If any of these symptoms sound like you, consult your physician. There really is no reason for you to dread a season if you can feel better. Live well!
Make an appointment online or Contact us
Please call us 618-281-9282 to leave a message on our secure voicemail or email us at