Well Spring is here! And that means sunshine, warmer weather, and happiness, right? But did you know that with the warmer weather could come the blues for some people? You have probably heard of the Winter Blues, or more clinically speaking, Seasonal Affective Disorder but did you know that in its rarer form, this affects some people when the weather becomes warmer and when the winter is actually on its way out?
WHAT is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD? In its most common form, it is a seasonal pattern of a depressed mood that begins in the Fall and lasts throughout the winter months for an individual. The person will feel some or all of the following symptoms according to the Mayo Clinic website:
depression, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy,
heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs, social withdrawal,
, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed,
appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates,
weight gain, and difficulty concentrating
What are the symptoms then for the Summer Blues? The list is similar:
Anxiety, trouble) sleeping (insomnia)
Agitation, irritability, weight loss,
Poor appetite, and increased sex drive
Also interestingly, if someone has Bipolar Disorder, the Spring and Summer seasons can bring on mania or hypomania symptoms. This is called Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder. These are the symptoms:
Persistently elevated mood, hyperactivity, agitation,
enthusiasm disproportionate to the situation,
and rapid thoughts and speech
WHY does this happen? The reduced amount of sunlight causes changes to important chemicals in your body. Serotonin is a “happy” serum that is in your brain and the lack of sun can cause the levels of serotonin to drop. The hormone Melatonin is responsible in our sleep patterns and mood. These levels can also be disrupted by the reduced sunlight. And finally, your “biological clock” or natural rhythm is thrown off by the reduced sunlight.
WHO is at risk? No one is immune to SAD. However, there are four main risk factors:
· Being female
· Living further from the equator
· Already having Depression or Bipolar
· Family having SAD
NOT A JOKE: Although this disorder appears to be harmless and trendy, it is very important that you take these symptoms seriously. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition has it listed as a specifier, “with seasonal pattern” and if left untreated, could cause thoughts of suicide, social withdrawal, substance abuse and/or school and/or work issues.
See a doctor if you are having thoughts of suicide, turning to alcohol or other substances for relief, trouble sleeping, and are having appetite changes.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?
Light therapy, psychotherapy, and medication can be used solely or in combination. Light therapy increases the levels of serotonin and melatonin in the body by “fooling” the body into thinking the artificial light is sunlight. Psychotherapy provides an outlet for an individual to express him/herself without being judged and being provided some guidance into their world, and medications can help restore the above mentioned chemicals as well.
WHAT CAN I DO RIGHT AWAY?
You can take immediate actions while you wait for you appointment or perhaps your symptoms are not severe enough for an appointment. To help alleviate these feelings:
· Make sure you exercise regularly-
makes you feel better about yourself and therefore lifts your mood. Also physical activity has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.
· Get outside daily. Absorb as much sunlight as possible
· Change your environment to let more sunlight in.
Pull back curtains, open blinds, trim trees- whatever it takes.