Monday, December 14, 2009

Addressing The Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s winter time again and for many this season can be very depressing. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is tied to seasons of the year.

Most people with SAD are depressed only during the late fall and winter (sometimes called the "winter blues") and not during the spring or summer.

SAD is most common in adult women, although it also affects men. In North America, SAD may affect as many as 6 of every 100 people, more in the Northern portions of the country than in the South.

Another 10-20% of people may have a milder form of seasonal mood change. Like all types of depression, SAD can have a devastating effect on a person’s life.

Seasonal Depression Causes

The exact causes of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are unknown.; the following are some causes:

*Chemical changes in the brain caused by changes in the amount of sunlight are probably involved.
*People who live in geographical locations that are dark or cloudy during the winter are most likely to have SAD.
*A tendency to have SAD may run in some families.

Seasonal Depression Symptoms

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may have some of the same symptoms as other types of depression. Most people have only some of these symptoms, not all.

*Depressed mood
*Loss of interest in usually enjoyable activities
*Fatigue or loss of energy
*Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
*Poor concentration, indecisiveness
*Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

The symptoms of SAD come back every year, and for any specific person, they tend to come and go at about the same time each year.

Winter SAD:

*Sleeping more than usual
*Craving for sugar, starchy foods, or alcohol
*Weight gain
*Conflicts with other people
*Heaviness of arms and legs

Seasonal Depression Self-Care at Home

The following activities or lifestyle changes may help prevent seasonal affective disorder or improve the symptoms:

*Get plenty of sunlight in your home during the day, in the evening use natural light bulbs if possible.
*Spend at least 30 minutes outside every day. Try to spend time outdoors every day, especially during the months when SAD affects you most. Midday, when the light is strongest, is the best time to be outdoors.
*Approach the season of depression with a positive attitude. Plan activities you enjoy.
*Physical activities, such as walking, may also help relieve symptoms.

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