The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Not So Fast…
Dear Rich Lifer,
The holiday season is often hailed as “the most wonderful time of the year”. For most that is true!
Filling your days with hot cocoa, classic movies, and the smell of pine trees, baking cookies, or logs burning on the fire, along with the company of friends and family to warm your heart can be festive indeed. But for some, especially those further north, the long, dark winter months can be dreadful, regardless of the joy surrounding them, if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
If you’ve never heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, it’s a medical condition that affects the lives of millions of Americans. Seasonal Affective Disorder, more commonly known as S.A.D, or seasonal depression, is defined as a form of depression that is directly related to the change in seasons.
Bouts of Seasonal Affective Disorder begin and end at around the same points in time every year (meaning for most that symptoms begin in the late fall, and continue into the winter months, ending in spring).
What Causes S.A.D.?
S.A.D. occurs for a variety of reasons, one of which being a lack of exposure to sunlight, which affects your circadian rhythm.
Think about it: winter months tend to be much darker than the summer months. The sun sets earlier, leaving less opportunity to get outside and absorb its rays. Just as a plant cannot thrive without sunlight, nor can we. S.A.D may also be caused by a drop in serotonin, or melatonin levels.
Many Americans were raised with the mindset that mental health is not important. Maybe when you were growing up you were told to “man up”, “get over it”, or “toughen up”. Many people, men especially were lead to believe that “emotional weakness” and depression were just things that you could snap out of. As medical science has progressed with modern brain imaging, we have been able to verify physical changes in brain chemistry that indicate that depression is a real disorder and something that you can seek medical assistance for.
I am here to tell you that Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, and something that should be addressed with your doctor if you are suffering through it.
How to Identify Seasonal Depression
S.A.D is different from the “winter blues” that we may get from time to time. S.A.D cannot be “cured” by simply putting on a happy Christmas movie or taking a walk around the block. Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder without even knowing it! If you are struggling with the following symptoms and have been a few years, it may be time to see your doctor.
Losing Interest or Motivation
Maybe you were an avid painter, woodcarver, or loved to work on the old hot rod not so long ago, but now you can’t seem to force yourself to pick up your tools and work. Maybe you once loved to cook, read, or exercise, but now you can’t seem to pull yourself out of bed. If “why bother?” crosses your mind at the thought of a once beloved activity, you may be showing signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Struggling with Low Energy
If simple tasks are now exhausting to you, it could be another symptom that you are suffering from S.A.D. If even simple things like getting out of bed in the morning, or getting off the couch seem like too much effort to bother with, it could be a sign that it’s time for a mental health checkup with your doctor.
Change in Sleep Schedule
While trouble sleeping can be a sign of numerous medical issues, if coupled with other symptoms on this list, you may want to consider bringing this up with your doctor. When it comes to S.A.D, most patients report struggling with sleeping too much. However, if your energy has been low during the day, causing you to nap more, you may now be struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep at night.
Want to read up on your Paradigm newsletters or subscriptions but you just can’t seem to focus? Maybe it’s taken you a ridiculous amount of time just to reach this point in the article. Are you forgetting things more frequently, misplacing items, or having trouble sitting still?
Difficulty concentrating is yet another sign of S.A.D.
Increased Feelings of Anxiety, Irritation, or Agitation
Changes in mood, especially extreme ones, should always be taken seriously.
If you find yourself burning with anger over spilled milk, tearing up at the drop of a hat, or dreading ordinary phone calls or tasks, these may be red flags that point towards Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Feeling Hopeless or Worthless
Often times difficult to talk about, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness are major concerns, and should be brought up to your doctor quickly, especially if they have come on suddenly and are not normal for you.
Whether it be from lack of exercise due to low energy and motivation, poor eating, or (more commonly) a combination of both, weight gain (beyond your typical gain from the milk and cookies you typically consume around this time of year) is a symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder and should be discussed with your doctor.
Treatment Options for S.A.D.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, do not lose hope! You are not alone: an estimated 10 million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
There are treatments and ways to help alleviate the symptoms of S.A.D. If you do suspect that you suffer from S.A.D, the first step is to make an appointment with your doctor.
It may be difficult for you to discuss, but opening up to your Doctor or another medical professional could lead to relief from these harrowing symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a variety of treatments, from antidepressants, changes in diet or even, light therapies may be beneficial.
Go in with an open mind and try your best to make an effort for your health.
Regardless of what you were raised to believe, having a condition such as Seasonal Affective Disorder does not make you “crazy”. If you were suffering with arthritis, you would go see a doctor and have the condition treated. Your brain is the most powerful organ in your body. Why not treat it as such? Investing in your health is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.
To a richer life,