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Counseling for Individuals, Couples, & Families /Tele-Mental Health

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Shedding light on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or the Winter Blues

Posted on January 9, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the clinical name for winter blues.  It affects about 5% of those who live in northern states (such as Michigan). It is characterized by feelings of sadness and depression during the winter months when the temperatures drop and the days grow short. Women are 2-3 times more likely to suffer from winter blues 

Symptoms of SAD (Occurred for the past two winter seasons) include the followings:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly everyday
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in daily activities
  • Excessive sleeping (Hypersomnia)
  • Diminished ability to concentrate 
  • Excessive eating and Weight gain
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness 

Effective techniques to treat winter depression:
1-Increase your daily exposure to as much natural light as possible when you can gain access to more sunlight in the winter months. Sitting next to a south-facing window when possible will increase your sunlight exposure.
2-Take walks throughout the day (even if you don't normally do so). 
3-Try to exercise next to a window (or outdoor when possible).
4-Maintain your daily schedule and lifestyle as much as possible. 
5-Keep a regular pattern of sleep, this is extremely essential. 
6- Consult with your family doctor about light therapy.  Light therapy has shown to be an effective treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder.  You can purchase inexpensive light therapy lighting fixtures for your home or office.  You can also replace commonly used light bulbs in your home with brighter full spectrum (also known as broad spectrum) light bulbs.  These light bulbs can provide light that is similar to natural sunlight. (Note: Light therapy is very helpful for individuals affected by SAD, but could exasperate symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, provoking a manic episode, so try to refrain from self-diagnosis)

When other self-help methods are not effective, the winter blues can be treated with psychotherapy or psychotropic medications .  Talk about this condition with a professional, it's nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. With a little effort, the winter blues can be beaten.

Categories: Mental Health Facts

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