Those of us who live in Northeast Ohio are used to the winters here. We have our shovels and salt. Our furnaces are serviced in the fall and at the same time we dig out our flannel sheets out from the depths of our linen closets.
In Northeast Ohio, by October, we know that the cold, gray and snowy days are coming. It is also at this time when we might feel those winter blues coming on. That can be natural but it can also be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) a type of depression that occurs each year at the same time, usually starting in fall, worsening in winter, and ending in spring. Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect up to 10-20 percent of the population and some 5 percent suffer from a more severe form of SAD. Women make up nearly 75 percent of SAD cases in the United States. It mostly affects people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, common signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder are:
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Inability to concentrate
- Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
- A “leaden” sensation in the limbs
- Increased need for sleep
- Craving for carbohydrates, and accompanying weight gain
- Increased desire to be alone
What are the causes of SAD?
The most common theory is that SAD is caused by the lack of sunlight in the winter months. This can cause a Vitamin D deficiency. It also causes the internal biological clock that regulates mood, sleep, and hormones to shift.
What should I do?
Seasonal affective disorder needs to be assessed by a professional. The symptoms can mimic depression and can be a part of complex mental health problem.
How is SAD treated?
SAD can be treated with light therapy. There are special lamps that can mimic sunlight and alleviate your symptoms. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Light therapy, sometimes called phototherapy, is administered by a device that contains white fluorescent light tubes covered with a plastic screen to block ultraviolet rays. The patient does not need to look directly into the light, but reads or eats while sitting in front of the device at a distance of 2 to 3 feet.”
Vitamin D is also recommended, since many people with SAD suffer from Vitamin D deficiency as a result of limited exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D-rich foods, include salmon and other fish, eggs, orange juice and milk. It is important to maintain an exercise regiment. Going outdoors and getting fresh air, even if it is not sunny can also help. Finally, it cannot be stressed enough to maintain a regular exercise regiment. Exercise is a natural mood booster. Going outdoors and getting fresh air, even if it is not sunny is important. Finally, laughter and maintaining your social circle is key. Getting together with friends and family, watching funny movies or playing games can help with Seasonal Affective Disorder and are healthy habits that should be maintained all year round.
If you feel like you are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, call for an appointment @ 216-896-0111.