Now that winter is upon us, many people are impacted, in a negative way, by the diminished sunlight and warm weather during these months. It can be more than simple ‘discomfort,’ “the blues,’ and wishes that the Spring would return ASAP – It can be a diagnosable and, thank goodness, treatable form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.)
Though more prevalent in areas of the world where the winters are longest and most severe, it occurs, to one degree or another, just about everywhere and in every population. Only recognized as a Psychiatric reality over the past decade or so, a range of treatments and interventions to relieve this seasonally induced (and hopefully) time limited depression are available. Some can be applied by the person themselves and others require the involvement of a professional.
Firstly, lest there be no misunderstanding about what is meant by Depression. This is more than just feeling the ‘blues.’ It is a disorder characterized by anhedonia (the inability to experience pleasure,) disturbances in sleep, eating and attention and, in many cases, increased irritability, social withdrawal and substance abuse. At its most intensive, Suicidal Ideation can begin to creep in to one’s mind. It’s a serious thing.
However, unlike depressions that are severe and chronic, SAD is, by definition, time and situationally limited, lending itself to more immediate and generally successful interventions.
Firstly, here are a few things you can do one your own to improve your mood when SAD strikes:
The use of artificial lighting. The combating of the depression and mental problems is difficult for the patients. The use of the artificial technique should be done to get the desired results. An improvisation in the moods is there to get effective results in mental health solutions to the people with 75hard.
This comes in two basic forms. The use of lighting described as “Full Spectrum”, mimicking the full range of natural light. Lamps providing this are commercially available as both floor and desk models and are purported to help many sufferers of SAD. Like most other things, one needs exercise some restraint and caution in their use.
You may recall the character on Northern Exposure who went to “Dr.” Fleishman complaining of SAD. Fleishman prescribed glasses that created full spectrum lighting and instructed the patient (the owner of the local bar) to use them for an hour or so a day. Well, he wound up using them all the time and, in the spirit of other medical practices, the cure became a problem of its very own!
The second type of artificial lighting, also commercially available, which is increasing used with some good results to treat SAD are lamps that light gradually at dawn and are referred to as Dawn Simulators. Often used as or in conjunction with more traditional alarm devices, these Dawn Simulators somehow ‘trick’ our senses into awakening to a day that seems to be greeting us with a rising sun.
Some people have also reported feeling helped by using machines that increase the production of ionized air.
People suffering from SAD, like those suffering from any type of depression, can also help themselves and their own mood by trying to resist giving in to it. Oftentimes, the best cure for depression is often activity. Go out – see people – do things and resist the temptation to engage in a type of psychological hibernation that takes you out of the running in the Human Race for an entire season.
Secondly, modern psycho-pharmacology can be helpful in many instances.
There are a couple of categories of medicines that while ordinarily prescribed for long-term depressions can be effective in helping restore human resilience when it has been temporary compromised by Winter. These include the SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) – the most popularly known and used of these is Fluoxetine (Prozac.)
Professional psychotherapy can also have some ameliorative impact on people whose lives seem to fall into the debilitating abyss of mood deflation for nearly ¼ (or more) of the year as a function od SAD. For those that seek out possible help from professional psychotherapy, approaches described as Cognitive – Behavioral have been shown to be most effective.
So, if winter brings more than chills to you, but causes predictable mood downturns that interfere with your ability to engage in and enjoy your life, SAD might be striking. Through trial and error, beginning with self-administered efforts, you may be able to not only better endure the dark season, but actually to thrive in it.