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Posts Tagged ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’

It wasn’t until recently that I came to realize that I most likely experience the winter blues, which is more mild than Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I have never been a fan of fall (I know all of you fall-lovers just took a collective gasp) or winter. In fact, it is more accurate to say I despise them. Up until a few years ago, I never really connected the dots of my dislike of fall and winter to the possibility that I have the winter blues, or perhaps SAD.

In 2017 I became a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Instructor. MHFA is designed to help regular people be able to recognize and better understand if someone they know is developing a mental health issue and how to help them. MHFA also teaches how to respond to someone having a mental health crisis. It wasn’t until I started teaching MHFA that I realized that the symptoms of SAD are similar to things I experience as fall approaches.

While I experience many of the symptoms of SAD, I am still able to enjoy my life and carry out my daily activities. The milder form of SAD is often called the winter blues. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms someone with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may experience include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

While fall and winter SAD are the most common, some people have symptoms during spring and summer. According to the Mayo Clinic the symptoms related specifically to fall and winter SAD , also known as winter depression, are:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

The symptoms most often associated with spring and summer SAD, also known as summer depression, are:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety

While the exact cause of SAD is not known, there are some factors that may come in to play. According to an article by Rush University Medical Center, these are some of the possible mechanisms:

  • Dips in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood.
  • Disruptions in circadian rhythms (your body’s internal clock), which help control sleep-wake cycles.
  • Alterations in melatonin, a hormone associated with both mood and sleep.

Some risk factors for SAD include:

  • Family history.
  • Having major depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Living far from the equator.

Some treatments for SAD include:

  • Exposure to sunlight.
  • Light therapy.
  • Psychotherapy.
  • Antidepressants.

In addition to these treatments, a University of Rochester Medical Center article gives these steps you can take to help ease symptoms:

  • Get help.
  • Set realistic goals in light of the depression.
  • Try to be with other people and confide in someone.
  • Do things that make you feel better.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Expect your mood to get better slowly, not right away.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs.
  • Delay big decisions until the depression has lifted.
  • Realize that people don’t often snap out of a depression.
  • Try to be patient and focus on the positives.
  • Let your family and friends help you.

So, if you or someone you know experiences either the winter blues or SAD, there is hope beyond the longer, sunny days of spring and summer. Anyone who has severe symptoms should seek professional help, especially if there are ever any thoughts of suicide or harm. I have not sought professional help, as I do not have any severe symptoms. My symptoms mainly involve lack of energy, sluggishness, mild agitation, and cravings. I have made it a point to get more exposure to light, especially earlier in the day, and I try to eat as healthy as possible and be as active as possible. Being proactive in these ways is enough to help ease my symptoms.

Written by:

Written by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Photo Sources:

https://pixabay.com/photos/man-face-confused-head-depression-416473/

https://pixabay.com/photos/desperate-sad-depressed-hopeless-2100307/

References:

More Than Just the Winter Blues? Rush University Medical Center. Retrieved on 10/20/19 from: https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/more-just-winter-blues

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). (2017). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Found on 10/20/19 at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. University of Rochester Medical Center. Retrieved 10/20/19 from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=85&contentid=P00755

National Council for Behavioral Health. (2019). Retrieved on 10/20/19 from: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/

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I love everything about fall… bright blue skies, the return to school and routine, crisp temperatures, apples, pumpkins, cinnamon spice candles, and the changing color of trees. I get so much joy from seeing the beautiful array of fall foliage. I actually feel more energetic during the fall. I tend to do more “fall cleaning” at home instead of “spring cleaning.” Sometimes, I even have enough energy to start some home renovation or painting projects.

fall

So in the spring while many are doing their spring cleaning, I tend to feel more stressed by the busy schedule with my children’s school and mounting yardwork. I need to remind myself that spring is not my season to tackle cleaning or extra projects, and not feel guilty about my lack of motivation.

Maybe you’re one who struggles with the shortened daylight hours and lack energy in the fall. There are many who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. The degree to which people are affected can be minimal to severe. If you find that your normal functioning is impaired or you experience significant depression, you might consider seeking help from a doctor or mental health professional.

It’s important to know yourself and what season best suits you, in order to plan your projects and activities to match your energy level. So how do you know what your season is? There is actually a self-assessment you can take to determine your seasonality. But the main question to consider is: in which seasons do you tend to feel the best, or feel the worst? Do you have significant changes on your sleeping and eating patterns from season to season? Do you tend to be more social or energetic in certain seasons?

Knowing your season can help you adjust your activities and schedule accordingly when possible. For more ideas on how to find out how seasonal you are, check out this article by Norman Rosenthal.

No matter your season, you can follow these tips to help yourself during the less energetic times:

Eat healthy. Resist the urge to default to comfort foods, as the extra fat and sugar make us feel worse. Look for heart-healthy, low-calorie foods to help you feel your best.

Stay active. Try to find ways to enjoy the season, whatever it is. Exercise can boost your mood and your immune system.

Stay connected. Spending time with family and friends is critical to fighting isolation.

Seek help. A mental health professional can help you identify problem areas and develop a plan to work through them. Maybe you need to adjust your goals.

 

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County

Sources:

American Psychological Association. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved Sep 20, 2017 from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/seasonal-affective-disorder.aspx.

Norman Rosenthal, N. How Seasonal Are You? Assessing and treating seasonality. Posted Dec 22, 2008 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-mind-your-body/200812/how-seasonal-are-you?collection=106209.

Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved Sep 20, 2017 from http://www.ubcmood.ca/sad/spaq-sad.pdf.

 

 

 

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For many people, the cold winter months bring an onset of what is described as the winter blues.  The colder, darker winter months can cause a change in our moods and our behaviors.  Some examples are sleeping more, becoming more irritable, eating more, and avoiding friends or social situations.

Dr. Emma Seppala, Science Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University and Co-Director of the Yale College Emotional Intelligence Project at Yale University, offers these tips for beating the winter blues:

  • CONNECT
    • One great way to connect to others in the winter months is to volunteer, at a shelter, a food bank, a nursing home, or at an after school program.
    • Another way is to stay active.  Join a fitness class.  Invite some friends to go on a walk or meet at a gym to shoot some hoops.
  • BREATHE
    • Practice mindfulness activities, like yoga or meditation, to help center your thoughts and help you to relax.
  • SAVOR
    • Be present in whatever activity you are engaged in. Turn off the cell phones and focus on where you are and who are you are with.
    • Curl up with your loved ones (spouse, childen, grandchildren) under a warm and cozy, blanket and read a book or watch a funny movie.
    • Eat healthier meals and take time to eat at a leisurely pace.

If you find that the winter blues are interfering with your daily activities for a period longer than two weeks, please consult your family physician or a mental health professional.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that is categorized as a type of depression and occurs during months where individuals have less exposure to natural sunlight that can be treated with appropriate medical help.

Written By: Jami Dellifield, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Hardin County, Ohio State Extension, dellifield.2@osu.edu

Reviewed By:  Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Fayette County, Ohio State University Extension, brinkman.93@osu.edu

SOURCES:

Sepalla, Emma M. PhD, “3 Definitive Ways to Beat The Winter Blues”, Psychology Today. Web January 20, 2016 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-it/201601/3-definitive-ways-beat-winter-blues

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/mood-disorders/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.html

REFERENCES:

Roecklein, Kathryn A., Rohan, Kelly J., PhD, “Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview and Update”, Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2005 Jan; 2(1): 20–26. Published online 2005 Jan. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004726/

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/dealing-with-winter-blues-sad.aspx

“Information from Your Doctor: Seasonal Affective Disorder”, American Family Physician. 2000 Mar 1;61(5):1531-1532. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0301/p1531.html

PHOTO CREDIT:

https://pixabay.com/en/post-light-lamp-outside-95090/

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As the bitter temperatures and snow continue to prolong spring’s arrival, I’ve heard many people say “I’m done with winter!” Do you find yourself feeling the effects of the long winter, maybe being cooped up without enough fresh air or sunlight? Perhaps you’re suffering from ‘cabin fever’ or ‘winter blues.’

The decrease in natural light in winter months can actually change one’s brain chemistry. Levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin drop in winter months while levels of sleep-promoting melatonin increase. The combination of changes in these two brain chemicals can lead to mild depression or the more serious condition of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Symptoms of SAD may include sleeping too much, eating too much, decreased energy, decreased ability to concentrate and social withdrawal. If any of these symptoms begin to interfere with your ability to function at home or work, you may need to seek professional diagnoses and treatment. Your doctor can work with you to develop a treatment to help you through the winter months.

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There are things you can do to combat the winter blues, according to Dr. Mark Frye, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic.

• Get outside – Natural light is good for you. Take a break at lunch and go for a walk.

• Light Therapy Boxes – These can help if you’re unable to get outdoors.

• Exercise – Try for at least three times a week for 30 minutes.

• Socialize – Interact with family and friends on a regular basis.

Winter won’t last forever… spring IS coming! Until then, use these tips to elevate your mood and energy and to live healthy AND well!

Source:

Hanson, Nick. “Experts Offer Advice to Avoid Winter Blues” Mayo Clinic News Network. http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/experts-offer-advice-to-avoid-winter-blues

Image source: <a href=”http://www.4freephotos.com/Couple_walking_in_snow-image-c4f8a5092e0211a44f2d21a148f8b937.html”>Couple walking in snow from 4freephotos.com</a>

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

 

 

 

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