Seasonal affective disorder. Feeling SAD?

.flickr.com/ photos/ bahkubean/ 1287879564

.flickr.com/ photos/ bahkubean/ 1287879564

SAD is major depression with a seasonal pattern. This means that most feel episodes of depression during the fall or winter months.  (Scientists have seen a striking example in Scandinavia where suicide rate doubles in the winter months.)

Symptoms of SAD may include

  • lack of interest in usual activities,
  • loss of appetite,
  • social withdrawal,
  • feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness,
  • feelings of anxiety,
  • poor concentration,
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Why does this occur?  In short, this is not fully understood.  Genetics, age and the body’s natural chemical makeup may all play a role.  Our biological clock (circadian rhythm) is disrupted with reduced levels and amounts of sunlight.  Reduced sunlight can cause a decreased level of serotonin (which is a feel-good chemical in the brain).  Melatonin may also decrease–this impacts our ability to get a restful night sleep.

When to see your doctor?  If your symptoms (as listed above) extend beyond a week or two, if you feel hopeless, think about suicide, or use drug/alcohol to help “cope.”

What are treatments?  Light therapy may help the brain chemicals be tricked into thinking it’s spring/summer.  Antidepressant medication may also help.  Counseling is a third way to help.

Don’t brush off that “winter blues” feeling.  Help is available.

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About drlesliegreenberg

I have been practicing as a family physician for over 20 years--as both an educator of physicians and clinician. From infancy to the elderly, I perform obstetrics and general medicine. I love my career and am passionate about my field of knowledge and my patients. Follow me on Facebook at Leslie Md Greenberg Medical Disclaimer The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.
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