Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Feeling SAD?

Are you blue in the winter but much perkier when spring rolls around? Consider talking to your doctor about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as Seasonal Depression. SAD is a type of depression that worsens during a certain part of the year. Though depression that occurs in the fall or winter is more common, it is possible for individuals to suffer from SAD in the spring or summer.

Symptoms of Winter Depression include:

  • Feeling sad, grumpy, moody or anxious
  • Losing interest in typical activities
  • Craving carbohydrates (carbs boost serotonin)
  • Gaining weight
  • Sleeping more and feeling drowsy during the daytime

Conversely, individuals suffering from Summer Depression may experience a loss of appetite, weight loss and inability to sleep.

Women and individuals between the ages of 15 and 55 are more prone to SAD. Those who live in regions where winter days are very short, resulting in fewer hours of daylight, also seem to be more affected. It’s not known for sure what causes SAD, but experts hypothesize that it may be related to reduced sunlight, which can affect sleep cycles and levels of serotonin – the brain chemical that can have a calming effect on a person’s mood.

Fortunately, several options are available to help patients cope with Seasonal Depression. One treatment that may be helpful is bright light therapy, during which the patient sits in front of a bright light for a certain amount of time each day – typically between 10 and 45 minutes. The reason this is thought to be effective is that it can decrease production of melatonin (the hormone that promotes sleep) and increase serotonin levels. Additional options include taking antidepressant medications as prescribed by a physician, receiving cognitive-behavioral therapy and getting regular exercise.

If you have been experiencing the symptoms of Seasonal Depression, talk to your primary care physician about your concerns. To find a GBMC primary care physician in your area, visit www.gbmc.org/mydoctor.

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