Seasonal affective disorder: Less light can mean darker moods
Courtesy of Aspirus
WISCONSIN – Does your mood seem to mirror the seasons – growing darker as the winter days get shorter and lifting as the brighter days of summer approach?
You could have a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression related to seasonal changes in light. It can make you feel tired, crave carbohydrates, gain weight, avoid things you normally enjoy, or withdraw socially during the fall and winter months.
But there is hope. A patient should discuss with their primary care provider “any symptoms related to feeling down, depressed, hopeless, fatigued, or not themselves mentally and emotionally,” said Tiffany Miller, FNP-C, a primary care nurse practitioner at Aspirus Rhinelander Clinic. “There are many things we can do to help them.”
Is it SAD?
A primary care provider would likely first run lab tests to rule out other medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism or anemia.
“There are many other conditions that can mimic SAD,” Miller stated.
If a patient is diagnosed with SAD, a variety of recommendations may be made, depending on severity. Miller recommends a well-balanced lifestyle and getting outside for regular walks daily.
“Light therapy (utilizing a light box or dawn-stimulating lamp), counseling, or in some cases medications such as antidepressants” would be warranted for SAD, she said.
“It is important for clinicians to take a careful history when diagnosing SAD as there are many other mental conditions that can also mimic SAD, such as generalized depression and bipolar,” Miller explained.
Who is affected?
Both children and adults can get SAD. However, it usually develops between the ages of 18 and 30. Four out of five people affected by SAD are women. Some evidence suggests that the further you live from the equator, the more likely you are to develop SAD.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, about five percent of adults in the United States experience SAD. For many, this is a recurring condition that visits from late fall to spring, with the most difficult months being January and February.
“It is important to note that often these symptoms go into remission during the summer months when the sun is out,” Miller said.
Aspirus Rhinelander Clinic is located at 1630 North Chippewa Drive. To schedule an appointment with Tiffany Miller, FNP-C, or one of her fellow providers, please call 715-361-5480. Visit www.aspirus.org for more information.