Seasonal Affective Disorder affects many in the winter

By Sally Beck
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that occurs during a specific time of year, usually the winter, although some report having SAD in the summer. Symptoms of SAD usually begin in October or November and continue until March or April, with the worst symptoms being in the darkest months.
Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood, and can trigger depression. For those already struggling with depression it can increase the symptoms. Winter onset symptoms include depression, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arm or legs, social withdrawal, oversleeping, and difficulty concentrating.
Take signs and symptoms of SAD seriously, as it can get worse and lead to problems if it is not treated. These can include: suicidal thoughts or behaviors, social withdrawal, school or work problems, and substance abuse. It is very important to see your doctor if you feel you may be struggling with these symptoms to see if you may need temporary medication to help you maintain through the difficult months.
If you experience depression all year round it is important also to see your doctor and seek mental health services to learn the skills needed to better manage your emotions and have the life you want.
To manage symptoms practice good sleep habits, eat a healthy diet, exercise more, take medication as prescribed and learn how to manage side effects, look for activities that make you happy, avoid alcohol and illegal drugs, talk with someone you can trust about how you are feeling, try to be around people who are caring and positive, and volunteer or get involved in group activities.
Beck, a licensed specialist clinical social worker, has practiced for over 12 years. For more information contact Cana Counseling at Catholic Charities, (316) 263-6941, or toll free at 1-866-839-4327 or visit CanaCouseling.org.