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Tacking Seasonal Affective Disorder

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is when you experience symptoms of depression as the seasons change. Most often, these feelings are tied to the fall and winter. But you can take charge to feel better during these months.

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Winter

 

Symptoms of winter-onset SAD include oversleeping, exhaustion, low energy, gaining weight, and appetite changes, like craving carbs and heavy foods.

Symptoms of Winter-Onset SAD

 

Symptoms of summer-onset SAD include trouble sleeping, agitation, anxiety, losing weight, and poor appetite.

Symptoms of Summer-Onset SAD

 

While doctors aren’t certain of the cause of seasonal affective disorder, some factors that contribute to it include how your biological clock, serotonin levels (which affect mood), and melatonin levels (which affect sleep patterns) are affected by reduced sunlight.

Factors Causing SAD

 

SAD is more common for those with depression, bipolar disorder, a family history of these conditions, and those living far from the equator with short days in the winter.

Risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder

 

Seasonal affective disorder can cause people to withdraw from their social circles, affect their performance in school or work, increase the risk of substance abuse, worsen other mental health issues (like anxiety), and in extreme cases, lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Issues Caused by SAD

 

Treatment for this disorder can include light therapy, antidepressants, therapy, and relaxation techniques like tai chi, yoga, meditation, or art therapy. Talk to your doctor to find the right fit for you.

Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder

Wintertime Worries and Falling

Falling and SAD in the Winter

The air is getting crisper and unfortunately, the sun shines less and less. Before we know it, snowflakes and ice will begin to fall. These wintery mixes can compromise both our balance and mental health. Both falling and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can come with the winter weather.

Falling

Each year, more than 300,000 injuries result from falls. Give yourself plenty of time and don’t rush around. Be especially careful getting into and out of your car by holding onto the door or framework for support.

If you must carry things, try to distribute the weight evenly and carry them below waist level, to help keep your center of gravity low. Go down icy stairs sideways.

Take short, flat-footed steps with your feet slightly farther apart than normal with your hands out of your pockets. Keep your eyes on the ground in front of you.

Wear boots or shoes with good traction. Rubber soles are better than plastic or leather. If you wear heels, wear wedges of no more than 2 inches. Once you’re inside, wipe and dry your shoes off to prevent creating slippery conditions inside too.

If you do lose your footing, try to fall so your thighs, hips, then shoulders hit the ground in that order, to keep your arms from taking all your body weight and possibly breaking. Tuck and bend your back and head toward your chest to keep from smacking your head.

SAD

A person suffering from SAD usually experiences depression and unexplained fatigue throughout the winter, while his or her symptoms disappear with the return of spring.

The reasons for developing SAD are still largely unknown, although experts believe it’s somehow triggered by decreased exposure to sunlight.

The symptoms are very similar to depression, but someone with SAD will experience these changes in mood and behavior in a regular, seasonal pattern.

A person with SAD or depression may have a few or all of the symptoms, like loss of energy, changes in mood, trouble concentrating, appetite changes, and weight gain.

Once you’re diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants for just the months you need them. Another option is light therapy. Light therapy uses a special light panel or box that mimics the light from the sun.