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Seasonal Affective Disorder: How to fight against it this winter

I know its that time of the year again (and no, I am not late with this post winter can go for a very long time specially up north) when everything is just darker and least in north America. Just kinda sucks, and for most people this can really hit them hard. I notice a lot of my friends being all moody and not wanting to go out as much.

Photo: on my way to work in Chicago, January 2014 (few years back, I had short hair)

The beauty of spring is that you feel so great that you want to go out...or is it that winter gets everybody so down?

Anyways. Winter is not for all of us. So watch out for these subtle signs. Yes, they are subtle and very few people notice them...and only happening in fall and winter. If you have this condition you would have to notice the following symptoms for more than 2 years.

What am I talking about?

What is seasonal affective disorder you ask? Well it's pretty much a category of depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder ("SAD" I know easy to remember) is pretty much a type of depression that comes and goes depending on the season...tends to happen in late fall and winter and goes away during spring and summer (although a few people can have it in summer as well)

So at the end of the day, it is depression which is why you have to make sure you are being taken care of (by your doctor) and not ignore it.

Signs and Symptoms

Since seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is not a separate disorder and falls under the big umbrella of depression (well no surprise here) symptoms are going to be the same as major depression for your whole life, specially for more than 2 years + get better the rest of the year.

Only difference: here it happens only during the seasons.

Although I am not here to diagnose you or for you diagnose yourself...make sure that if you are feeling some of these symptoms, that you go get profesional help (if you need help finding someone let me know!)

btw, I got these from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) a government not my opinion

Symptoms of the Winter Pattern of SAD:

  • Feeling of low energy

  • Hypersomnia (too much sleeping like Tita, my cat in the photo above)

  • Overeating (leads to the next one)

  • Weight gain

  • Craving for carbohydrates (I thought this was kinda interesting...have to look up why later)

  • Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating” want to avoid people)

Symptoms of summer seasonal affective disorder:

  • Poor appetite with associated weight loss

  • Insomnia (very little sleep)

  • Agitation

  • Restlessness

  • Anxiety

  • Episodes of violent behavior

How do you treat?

There are four major types of treatments for SAD: These may be used alone or in combination.

Light therapy has been used to treat SAD since the 80s. The idea here is that you get the light you have been missing. Since in winter the days are shorter and the nights are can lead to SAD. So, if you sit in front of a light box (filtered UV rays) specially in the morning (for 20-60mins) your SAD can be helped by this treatment.

Psychotherapy specially Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is pretty good at treating SAD. This works by using techniques to point out the negative thoughts and learn to replace them with positive thoughts about pleasurable and fun activities(like going for a workout, going out to eat with friends, go to a game, go ice skating, etc) and help you cope with winter.

Since this is a type of depression, the medication of choice by most doctors are a group of meds called "Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors" (SSRIs)... FDA approved!

Like any medication, there are side effects and it will take time before you and your doctor figure out the best medication for you...meaning: you will have to try a few.

Chicago 2015, one nice thing you get to really see architecture since the white background of the sky and snow keep you focused on the buildings

Please read: The information contained herein should NOT be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or any other healthcare provider. In addition, the information should not be used during a medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any and all medical conditions. The information provided here is for informational purposes only. Please check with your physician if you have health questions or concerns.

Although we attempt to provide accurate and up-to-date information, no guarantee is made to that effect. If you don't have a health care provider email me and I can help you get in contact with one.

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