An occasional case of the “winter blues” is normal as we deal with the dreary days of winter in Northeast Ohio, but seasonal affective disorder can be much more serious and long-lasting.
Neelima Rao, MD, a primary care physician with Lake Health Physician Group Internal Medicine, explains seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and how it can be treated:
What is seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a depression that occurs due to seasonal changes. Its depressive episodes follow seasonal patterns. It is most often associated with the shorter days of winter, with symptoms beginning in late fall and progressing throughout the winter months. SAD is a clinically diagnosed depression, can be a serious issue and is a condition the person cannot control.
What are the symptoms of SAD?
The symptoms of SAD can happen gradually; you might be surprised to notice they’ve become a part of your everyday life. Depressive symptoms can be unusual. Common symptoms can include:
- Tiredness and a lack of energy
- A weakened immune system and getting sick more often than usual
- A lack of concentration
- Overeating and weight gain with increased cravings for high-carb foods
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Feeling guilty or worried
- Oversleeping, or having trouble falling or staying asleep
- Excessive sleepiness, often with trouble staying awake during the day
- Increased irritability
- Physical symptoms such as nausea or dizziness
- Social and relationship problems, such as trouble getting along with others or oversensitivity to rejection.
Talk to your doctor
Talk to your doctor if these symptoms last for days on end rather than occurring occasionally. Your doctor will listen carefully and ask you questions about your symptoms. Possible remedies your physician might suggest include light therapy, antidepressant medications, psychotherapy and increased exercise.
He or she might also suggest environmental changes. Brighten your environment by opening blinds, trim trees to let in more light, or get outside at lunchtime to experience more daylight. Some supplements, including St. John’s wort, SAMe, melatonin, omega 3 fatty acids or vitamin D, might help. Your doctor may also suggest adding aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, acupuncture or massage therapy.