Does colder weather and dark shorter days leave you feeling sad? If so,
you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
“SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern,”
explains Julia Alexander, PA-C, of
Catawba Valley Family Medicine – Southeast Catawba. “Usually we see symptoms begin in the late fall, as days become
shorter, growing more severe over the winter month and then typically
improve or in most cases disappear during the spring and summer.”
According to the Academy of Family Practice: “In a given year, about
10 % of the U.S. population, most predominantly women (4:1 female to male
ratio), experiences SAD. With symptoms present for about 40 % of the year,
occurring every year, having SAD can have a substantial impact on patients’
families and employment.”
What are the symptoms? If you have SAD, you may:
- Feel hopeless, depressed, anxious or irritable
- Have difficulty concentrating
- Eat more – craving junk food and carbohydrates
- Have lower energy level even though you seem to be sleeping more
- Lose interest in your normal, everyday activities and become less social
What causes SAD?
“While the exact cause of SAD is still unclear, researchers believe
reduced exposure to sunlight has an affect on the body’s chemistry,”
says Julia. “The thought/theory is that a lack of light causes your
body to produce more melatonin – a hormone that makes you feel drowsy,
which subsequently makes you produce less serotonin – a hormone
that influences your mood. It also disturbs your body’s sleep- wake
pattern called circadian rhythm (biological clock).”
What can you do to help combat SAD? Julia suggests:
Stay active. If it’s sunny outside go for a walk or workout in a brightly lit
gym. Exercise increases body’s endorphins (“natural morphine”)
and fights depression.
Take a winter trip to a sunny place.
Be social. Stay connected and make plans with the people you enjoy being around.
Maintain structure. Get enough rest by going to bed a regular time and place an emphasis on
eating healthy balanced meals.
Brighten up your everyday environment. When you’re at work try opening the blinds, sitting closer to a
window or turning on a lamp.
Once a person recognizes the pattern of SAD, it can be a relief to know
there is help. If the symptoms you are experiencing become intolerable
you should consult with your physician on the appropriate treatment. To
make an appointment with Julia Alexander, PA-C, of
Catawba Valley Family Medicine – Southeast Catawba located at 6127 South Highway 16, Denver, NC 28037, call 704.483.0340.