Greensburg Daily News
Bone-chilling temperatures; snowy-white fields of ice; leafless trees and fewer hours of sunlight — with the holidays well behind us, Old Man Winter has descended over Decatur County in full force.
Some might associate this time of year with snowball fights, snow-men and sledding. Others might enjoy the chance at going to bed a little earlier and snuggling in beneath a pile of warm blankets with a cup of hot cocoa near the bedside.
For others, however, this time of year brings a figurative veil of darkness in addition to the literal one ushered in by November’s time change.
In fact, for sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), November’s time change, combined with the natural shortening of days as winter sets in, leads to depression.
Kelly Benedict, LMST, Clinic Coordinator and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with Greensburg’s Centerstone, told the Daily News that SAD is not unusual this time of year. The facility, she said, sees its fair share of SAD cases each winter.
“We see a lot of depressed people across the board,” she said, “but we do see an increase in the winter.”
SAD symptoms, she explained, are generally the same as for traditional depression.
“People want to sleep more; they experience appetite changes — over eating and under eating,” she explained. “Sufferers experience general fatigue and low energy in daily life, a lack of interest in daily activities, difficulty concentrating, and moodiness.”
Benedict stressed, however, that SAD isn’t classified as a major depressive disorder. As such, healthcare providers only prescribe medication to SAD patients as a last course of therapy.
“One of the most effective treatments for SAD is called Light Therapy,” she said. “There are special lights that replicate sunlight patients can buy and turn on inside their homes. Generally, the patient sets aside a specific block of time each day to have the light on. Consistency is important with this kind of therapy. Patients should have the light for the same amount of time and at the same time each day.”
Of course, Benedict added, an even better form of therapy can be found in sunlight itself.
“If you have SAD and you can stand the cold, take advantage of every minute of sunlight you can get,” she added. “Whenever there’s a sunny day, get outside in it every opportunity you get.”
Other SAD therapeutic measures include staying active; deep breathing and meditation; keeping a “gratitude journal” (writing down things you’re thankful for on a daily basis); reading humor or watching funny movies.
“Laughter always helps,” Benedict said. “It’s not the best medicine for SAD patients, though — that would be sunlight.”
When doctors prescribe medication for SAD patients, the coordinator added, it’s typically in lower doses compared to other depressed patients and for shorter durations.
“I tell patients to look forward to spring,” Benedict said. “Buy seeds for you summer garden and plant them. Caring for a plant can be helpful too.”
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.