Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has depressed people

Is it the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

The days are short, the nights are long, and the cloudy skies never seem to go away. Yes, Chicago’s gray winter can actually make you feel blue.

Sunlight regulates our appetite, mood and sleep. During the long winter months, the lack of sunlight can disrupt our circadian rhythm – the internal clock that controls sleep/wake cycles.

According to Niki Wood, PsyD, clinical psychologist at BZA Behavioral Health in Schaumburg.

If you notice a dip in your mood during the winter, it could be the winter blues, a temporary mild sadness that can make it hard to sleep, wake up in the morning, or motivation to work through your to-do list, says Wood.

However, if you experience the blues every year around the same time, it may be seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a seasonal pattern of depression that usually begins in the fall and ends in the spring. causing people to feel tired, sad, moody and generally down. Unlike the winter blues, SAD symptoms are more intense, last longer, and can interfere with daily functioning.

Conjure SAD

People with SAD feel depressed almost all day, almost every day of the week. They may lose interest in activities they usually enjoy doing and have low energy, says Sara Rose Danesi, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist with AMITA Health Behavioral Medicine Institute in the village of Elk Grove. They may crave carbs and overeat, which can lead to weight gain. Additionally, they may have hopeless thoughts, feelings of worthlessness, and in severe cases, thoughts of suicide or not wanting to live. They may have all of these symptoms, or just a few.

” We know 4% to 6% of the adult population in America has SAD, while 10% to 20% probably has a slight winter blues at times,” Danesi says. While some people are naturally more sensitive to light and circadian rhythm changes than others, Chicago’s harsh winters don’t help.

“The pace of life is different in winter,” says Andy Wade, executive director of Illinois National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We’re spending more time indoors, more time alone, and we’re less physically active.” With the combination of winter and the Covid-19 pandemic, he has seen an increase in all mental health issues, including SAD.

“Pay attention to the feelings you’re having,” says Wade. “You shouldn’t feel bad because you feel bad. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge feelings of chronic negativity.

“Pay attention to the feelings you are having. You shouldn’t feel bad because you feel bad.

Do something to get yourself out of a bad rhythm, like regroup and take a short walk, be of service to others, or find something to be grateful for and focus on that.

Plan ahead for the cold, dark months, Wood says, and stave off the winter blues and SAD by spending time in nature, socializing with friends and family, volunteering, and focusing on what’s right. for which you should be grateful, perhaps writing it out of gratitude. newspaper.

Wood also advises staying away from social media, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs — all habits that can negatively impact your mood. “If you’re not feeling well, make sure you eat well, exercise, and don’t put anything in your body that could have an impact,” Wood says.

Light therapy can also be helpful, Danesi says. Sit under a 10,000 lux light box about 20 minutes a day. But see a doctor if you have bipolar disorder, as too much light can trigger high mood states.

Tips for stopping SAD

Danesi offers these tips for beating the winter blues and SAD:

  • Regular exercise. Do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise five days a week or 20 minutes of vigorous activity three days a week.
  • Sleep regularly. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Sleep about eight hours each night.
  • Look for the sun. Spend time outdoors in the morning, if possible. If you can’t get out, stand near a window for a few minutes each day.
  • Bring the outdoors inside. Indoor plants act as natural air purifiers. Studies show that herbs can help reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Try meditation. Meditation can reduce symptoms by helping people focus on the moment instead of dwelling on unnecessary thoughts.

It’s also important to see your doctor to make sure you don’t have a medical condition that’s making you feel tired and depressed. Your GP can also refer you to a therapist.

While many types of therapy can be effective for SAD, two common types include cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy, Danesi says. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help a person change negative thoughts and behaviors into more positive ones. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can increase a person’s motivation to make lifestyle changes by helping them come to terms with their thoughts and feelings.

People with severe symptoms of SAD may want to ask their doctor about the benefits of antidepressant medication, Danesi says. They might only need medication seasonally, from fall to early spring.

Although the winter blues or SAD may feel like a swirling snowstorm, the conditions don’t have to cause destruction. You can manage the symptoms and, before you know it, spring will be here. The sun will shine again.

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