Are you worn-out, irritable or lacking energy? Do you just want to eat and sleep? Winter is the season for an especially disabling form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. The cold, dark days of winter can bring depressive moods for a lot of people, mostly women. Seasonal Affective Disorder can significantly impair one’s quality of life, including relationships and overall health and mood.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (also called SAD) is a type of depression that follows the seasons. It has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and lack of sunlight in winter. The experience of SAD can be more than just the “winter blues,” and it is treatable.
Symptoms of SAD
Symptoms of SAD usually begin in October or November and subside by March or April. December through February is often the toughest time, and holiday loneliness and stress can increase symptoms. Symptoms of SAD include:
• Feelings of depression, sadness, loss of self esteem and irritability
• Sleeping more than usual yet still feeling tired
• Increased appetite and cravings for carbohydrates and sweets
• Loss of energy and concentration
• Loss of enjoyment and lack of motivation or interest in activities or socialization
If these symptoms last for more than two weeks, or your daily living is impacted, contact a professional.
Who is at Risk?
• Younger people and women are most commonly affected by SAD. Women make up 75 percent of those diagnosed, yet men exhibit more severe symptoms.
• 10-20 percent of the U.S. population is affected by SAD (as many as half a million people per year).
• Individuals who live in northern regions or farther away from the equator experience SAD more often.
• Individuals who have a family history of SAD are more likely to be affected.
• Exposure to sun or other light. Try opening the blinds for natural light or going for a walk outdoors. Light therapy called Phototherapy can also help. This includes close exposure to a special florescent lamp. Sessions begin at fifteen minutes and increase to a few hours.
• Individual counseling sessions can help individuals learn healthy ways to cope, reduce stress and recognize and change negative thoughts and behaviors.
• Medication such as prescription antidepressants.
• Self Care such as exercise, being social, healthy diet and stress management or interventions with employee assistance programs can help. Avoid turning to alcohol or excessive eating.
If you or someone you love needs help, contact Centerstone at 888-291- HELP (4357) or visit www.centerstone.org.
If you are in crisis, call Centerstone’s 24-Hour Crisis Intervention Hotline at 800-681-7444.
Centerstone, a not-for-profit organization, has provided a wide range of mental health and addiction services to people of all ages for more than 50 years. Through more than 60 facilities and 170 partnership locations across Middle Tennessee, Centerstone serves more than 50,000 children, adolescents, adults and seniors each year. Centerstone is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).
Susan Gillpatrick, Centerstone Crisis Management Specialist, primarily works in the field with clients in critical incident response situations, and in Centerstone’s wellness trainings and presentations. She is also responsible for planning and implementing marketing and growth strategies for Centerstone’s Crisis Management Strategies.
Ms. Gillpatrick is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Trauma Specialist, Certified Workplace Conflict Mediator, and Mental Health Service Provider in the state of Tennessee and a National Certified Counselor. She is also a member the American Counseling Association, the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists, the Tennessee Mental Health Counseling Association, and the Middle Tennessee Employee Assistance Professionals Association. She is a frequent presenter at local and national conferences, and has had numerous articles published. She received her Master of Education degree in Human Development Counseling from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University.