For most people, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. However, they can also bring stress, colds and even depression. There is even a specific type of depression people can get around the winter months (and even summer months in some cases), called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Seasonal affective disorder, as the name suggests, occurs during seasonal changes, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Web site. Symptoms usually occur from October or November to March or April.
Most of the symptoms are similar to general depression, such as fatigue, sluggishness, hopelessness, decreased interest in activities once enjoyed, isolation and suicidal thoughts. However, there are also some characteristic symptoms for “recurrent winter depression,” according to NAMI. These symptoms are fatigue, oversleeping, weight gain and food cravings.
Most SAD sufferers are women. In fact, Mental Health America’s Web site states that 75 percent of people with SAD are women. SAD is rarer in people who live closer to the Equator. Also, it seems like people in sunny states suffer less, like in Arizona. However, there are some people who have seasonal affective disorder in the summer still.
There are some treatment options for SAD, like phototherapy or bright light therapy. Antidepressants and spending more time in the sun (if possible) are also possible remedies.
An article from KSFY.com, a news station in South Dakota, states that around 10 million Americans suffer from seasonal depression and there are about 25 million others who suffer from less severe symptoms.
One man who was interviewed for the article said that daily light therapy, exercise and medication helped lessen his symptoms.
For those in cloudy and rainy states, or states that just don’t get much sunlight, especially during the winter months, it may be best to go outside when there are some rays of light. If it’s too cold to do that, try light therapy boxes. These probably are not as common in sunnier states, but other states might have them. For example, one counseling center at the University of Maine has light boxes that students can check out.
If you feel any of the above symptoms or notice a depression-like pattern around certain seasons or months, it is best to see a mental health care professional. It might not only be seasonal affective disorder that’s causing problems.
Don’t let Old Man Winter get the best of you — fight back and turn some lights on.