By: Keely Fell
Can’t seem to shake the winter blues? Nearly five percent of adults are experiencing symptoms that align with major depressive disorder with recurring seasonal pattern, which is more commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), an individual who is experiencing “two major depressive episodes in the last two years” that show relations to the time of year, and experience full remissions at other times they may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
It is also important to understand what is happening in the body and why an individual is experiencing such symptoms. When an individual is experiencing these symptoms, often it can be as a result of the lack of natural light due to the shorter periods of daylight during the winter season. With the lack of light, the human brain slows down the production of serotonin, and increases the production of melatonin which leaves individuals feeling drowsy. Melatonin production increase is caused by darkness, which is why we get sleepy when the sun goes down. The regulation of these chemicals is what helps create your body’s specific circadian rhythm. When this system is affected it can cause a feeling of lethargy and or restlessness.
Here are some tips and tricks to shaking those winter blues:
- Take a few minutes during your day to get outside Whether that’s during your lunch break or walking to pick up the mail, going outside during daylight will increase the serotonin production in your brain.
- Light Therapy During the dark winter months, if these symptoms are taking over you can try light therapy. Light therapy allows for the brain to think it’s being exposed to sunlight. People who use light therapy typically invest in a light box (if interested Harvard Health has many they recommend) which delivers around 10,000 lux, compared to a standard sunny day that ranges 50,000 lux or above. They recommend that, you sit in front of the light box for no more than 30 minutes a day. This allows for the brain to regulate its circadian rhythms by allowing the retinas to be stimulated. Light therapy does not work for everyone.
- Talk Therapy If these symptoms persist and are affecting your day talk therapy is also affective. Reaching out to a psychologist, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, or psychotherapist to come up with symptom relief is another big way to combat these symptoms. Symptom relief may include the use of antidepressants, or various therapeutic methods.
If you or someone you know has Seasonal Affective Disorder or seems to have the symptoms of SAD, and needs help, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/ .
Seasonal Affective Disorder
By: Julia Keys
Seasonal Depression, clinically known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, affects about five percent of American adults annually. SAD is a type of depression where the weather and seasonal changes causes one to feel depressed. SAD symptoms most commonly flare up around the late fall to the early spring months. During this time of the year, the sun is out shorter and its rays are less intense. Psychologists hypothesize that the lack of sunlight contributes to SAD by affecting healthy hormonal balances. Although most cases of SAD occur during the late fall to early spring seasons, some people do have seasonal depression during the warmer spring and summer months. Studies show that alcohol consumption and depression go hand-in-hand, which can be particularly harmful when suffering from SAD.
Symptoms of SAD:
- Feeling of sadness or depressed mood
- Lack of motivation
- Marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates
- Change in sleep; usually sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours
- Increase in restless activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide or attempts at suicide
Fortunately, there are many different treatments to help those with SAD reduce their symptoms. Psychotherapy and medication are helpful for those suffering from SAD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT helps patients change unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors that may contribute to their symptoms. Psychiatrists most often prescribe antidepressants such as Lexapro or Prozac to help those with SAD. A new type of therapy, light therapy, has proven to help those with SAD by exposing them to artificial light which takes the place of the light they are missing on short fall or winter days. One usually sits in front of the light box for about twenty minutes each morning. Patients usually start feeling better after two to three weeks of light therapy. In addition to the services professionals can provide to help, there are lifestyle choices that one can make to lessen the effects of SAD such as avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting regular exercise, getting a healthy amount of sleep and eating a healthy diet.
If you or someone you know is struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, please contact Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy, located in New York and New Jersey to speak to a licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners or psychotherapists. To contact the office in Paramus NJ, call (201) 368-3700. To contact the office in Manhattan, call (212) 722-1920. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/ .
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Seasonal Affective Disorder: Not Just the Winter Blues
By Jessica Burgess
As spring finally approaches, many are hopeful for longer and brighter days in hopes that it will heighten their mood and ease them of the ‘winter blues’. But how typical are these mood shifts and when are they cause for concern? Season Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is related to changes in season, often goes overlooked by the average person and just considered normal winter blues. However, SAD has many of the same symptoms and risks as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).
Most people with SAD tend to show symptoms beginning in the fall and ending before spring but some show symptoms in the spring and progress through the summer months. Either way, the disorder follows a pattern of seasonal change, where the symptoms get worse towards the end of the season. Symptoms of SAD include:
- Feelings of depression almost every day, all day
- Sleeping problems
- Weight gain or loss
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of hopeless, worthlessness or guilt
- Lower interest in activities you used to find interesting
- Low energy
- Thoughts of death or suicide
If you think or someone you know is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, speak with one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists. Contact us at our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 respectively to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com