The Winter Blues – Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder is a depression that happens during the fall and winter seasons. It is more often known as seasonal depression. Those affected with seasonal affective disorder will feel very tired, moody and sometimes sad and unfulfilled beginning when the season changes from summer to fall. In most cases the symptoms only last through April or May, once the season changes back to brighter and longer days.
Who Is At-Risk?
While seasonal affective disorder can affect anyone, it is most commonly found in gloomy locations, especially the Pacific Northwest here in the United States. Areas that have very short days in the winter are also prone to have more people with seasonal affective disorder. This seasonal depression is also most commonly seen in individuals aged between 15 and 55, and women are of greater risk of developing seasonal affective disorder than men. If someone in your family has seasonal affective disorder, you are also considered to be at higher risk of developing the condition. Of course, the older you become, the less likely you are to develop seasonal affective disorder, if you haven’t already.
What Are The Symptoms?
1. Feeling sad, moody, anxious and even unmotivated
2. Lost interest in normal activities (hanging out with friends, working out, etc)
3. Excessive tiredness (sleeping a lot, especially during the day)
4. Weight gain
Can It Be Treated?
The symptoms and really wear on those with seasonal affective disorder and can make them feel not only exhausted, but they oftentimes turn into seclusion, not wanting to participate in group activities. This is part of the depression and can be treated. Physicians have found that seasonal affective disorder can be treated through phototherapy sessions (light therapy). The phototherapy simulates sunshine and allowing your body to absorb the light and in turn feel better. There are two different types of light therapy, including bright light therapy which requires the individual to be in front of the light for a certain amount of time, typically a minimum of thirty minutes. There is also a light that gradually turns on to simulate the rising sun. This is used in the morning while the individual is waking from sleep. Phototherapy is a very popular treatment and there are even “light rooms” found on college campuses up in the Pacific Northwest for this very reason. With phototherapy, those affected with seasonal affective disorder are likely to begin feeling better after a week or two of treatment, but must be continued throughout the winter season to remain effective.
For cases that are more severe, physicians may also prescribe antidepressants and/or counseling to help the individual tackle this disorder and begin to feel more like themselves. Whatever the treatment is that the physician recommends it is important to stick with it during the prescribed timeframe.
If you or someone you love are affected by the change of the seasons, just know you/they are not alone and you/they do not have to continue to feel bad, as there are options to help adjust your body to the new season and live the life you want to.
Susan Wright DMV is a vet, a dog expert and freelance writer. Susan shares articles on health conditions that pertain to both people and pets.