Beware the “Winter Blahs”

winter-blahs_web-image-002Many adults may struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder and not recognize the symptoms.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons” which can initially appear in the fall as the days become shorter, then increase into the winter months.  Unfortunately, most of us tend to think that we may have the winter blahs and not understand that this disorder is a subtype of major depression and must be addressed with appropriate treatment.  Our circadian rhythm regulates levels of serotonin and melatonin in our systems; a decrease in sunlight can alter our internal clock and cause serotonin and/or melatonin level to either drop or change significantly and enable SAD symptoms to present in the body.

As the seasons begin to change and you notice that you are more short-tempered than normal, have lower energy levels than you usually do or seem to want to spend more time sleeping than awake, you may need to check with your doctor.  The risk factors for SAD include a family history, being diagnosed as clinically depressed or your geographic location if you live particularly far from the equator. Statistically, young women have a greater potential to develop SAD than either older women or men in general.

Treatment options are easily available and can ordinarily provide immediate relief.  If you find yourself susceptible to SAD, then consider making deliberate dietary choices that reflect a healthy style in both your meals and snacks.  Also, be sure to get outside during daylight hours to take advantage of the natural light.  Exercise regularly and be sure to include time to socialize with others.

Professional help for SAD may include medication, but many times, psychotherapy or light therapy can prevent serious symptoms from occurring.  If you think Seasonal Affective Disorder impacts you, please be sure to talk to your health professional and determine what treatment plan is best for you.

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