More than just holiday blues: Understanding seasonal affective disorder
– Feeling lethargic throughout the day
– Isolation and withdrawal from social activities
– Anxiety and irritability
– Sadness, guilt, or hopelessness
– Intense craving for carbohydrates
– Unusual weight gain
– Extreme sleepiness
– Desperate and dark thoughts
Those who think they have these symptoms should consult with a mental health professional. Lisa M. Cannon, M.D. encourages individuals to see their doctor for the right diagnosis and treatment. It might also be helpful to stay with a trusted companion, especially if one is unable to go about his or her usual activities.
Although some of the symptoms are similar to other types of depression and the exact cause of the disorder hasn’t been defined, most research point to lessened exposure to sunlight as a trigger. The shorter days that start during autumn and end before spring may affect the production of hormones melatonin and serotonin in the hypothalamus. Melatonin is responsible for making a person feel sleepy. During the colder seasons, the body may produce more of this. On the other hand, serotonin affects a person’s mood, appetite, and sleep. Lack of sun exposure may bring about feelings of depression. The internal and external changes the body experiences may affect a person’s circadian rhythm or the so-called body clock. According to Lisa M. Cannon, M.D., changes in a person’s waking and sleeping routines can heighten the effects of the hormone imbalance.
However, there are many treatment options for those with seasonal affective disorder. Doctors may prescribe light therapy from a special light box that mimics sunlight, counselling and cognitive behavioral therapies, and antidepressant medication. For those with this condition, subscribing to a healthy lifestyle will strengthen their body and mind even as the seasons change.