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Posts Tagged ‘SAD’

Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Dark, Dreary Months of Winter. By Our Student Pharmacist, Abbey Strazar.

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It’s that time of the year again where darkness consumes your early commute and greets you as you are finishing your work day. Many individuals are able to cope with the shortened days and colder temperatures. However, some individuals have a harder time with the change. This phenomenon has been named seasonal affective disorder or “SAD” for short.

SAD usually begins and ends consistently around the same time each year for patients. Most people, if they develop SAD, develop it in the fall and continue to have it into the winter months. However, there are some individuals who develop SAD in the spring and continue to have symptoms into the summer; this however is much less common.

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Some common symptoms of SAD are:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with others
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Increased sleep
  • Weight gain
  • Cravings for foods high in carbohydrates

You may be reading these symptoms and diagnosing yourself or a loved one with SAD. Be careful labeling yourself or others as many people will experience these symptoms during the winter months, but do not fit the criteria of being clinically diagnosed with SAD.

On the other hand, if you experience these symptoms for days at a time or realize that activities that used to make you happy do not any more, it may be time to talk to your physician. This is especially true if your sleep or appetite drastically changes or you have thoughts of suicide or turn to alcohol or drugs for comfort.

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There are some risk factors that put individuals at a greater risk for developing SAD and they include:

  • Being Female
  • Younger age
  • Having a family history of SAD
  • Living farther from the equator
  • Having a history of major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder

Although it is not completely understood why some individuals develop SAD, the following are thought to be contributing factors:

  • Circadian rhythm: The decrease in sunlight may disrupt your internal clock which may lead to depression.
  • Serotonin: The reduction in sunlight may decrease the levels of serotonin. This neurotransmitter is responsible for feeling good. Consequently, a decrease in this substance would cause someone to feel “down” or sad.
  • Melatonin: The change in seasons can alter the concentration of melatonin within an individual. This could be the reason for changes in sleep pattern and mood.

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You may be wondering how you can treat this condition, especially since we live in Ohio and it is inevitable that our weather will stay consistently dark and gloomy. Below are the following treatment options, along with things that can be done at home to help ease the symptoms and improve one’s mood.

  • Light Therapy:
    • Mimics natural outdoor light which may help alter brain chemicals to improve mood. This is considered first line treatment for fall-winter SAD.
  • Psychotherapy: 
    • Also referred to as “talk therapy.”
  • Medications: 
    • Some patients with severe SAD may benefit from antidepressants, especially Wellbutrin (bupropion). If patients tend to have SAD repeatedly during the same seasons, their doctor may start them on an antidepressant before fall.
  • Alternative options:
    • Brighten your day, literally. Open blinds, trim branches that block the natural sunlight from entering your house, or add skylights. Also, try to sit by windows even when you are stuck inside.
    • Get outside regardless of the weather. This is especially helpful if you can do it within two hours after getting up–very convenient if you have a pet who needs a good walk!
    • Exercise, exercise, exercise!!!

Hopefully this information will help you or a loved one during this upcoming winter!

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Infograph from the following web site: http://www.accesshealthcareservices.com/beating-winter-blues-guide-seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/

First image in blog, courtesy of: http://www.yellowbrickprogram.com/seasonal-affective-disorder.html