We turned our clocks back this past weekend, and while it gave us an extra hour of sleep and a little more daylight during the morning hours, the time change also means that it’s now dark by 5:00 p.m. The days will continue to get shorter until late December, and we also expect the temperatures to drop, and these less desirable days can lead to an increase in what’s known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that is typically closely tied to the changes in seasons. We experience all four seasons pretty intensely here in Wisconsin, so it’s not uncommon for people to develop symptoms of seasonal affective disorder as the days get shorter and the night’s get colder. Below, we take a closer look at seasonal affective disorder and how to get help if you or a loved one is dealing with the condition.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that is characterized by a commonly recurring seasonal pattern. Most patients who experience seasonal affective disorder do so in the fall and winter months, but a small percentage deal with the seasonal disorder during the spring and summer. We all go through periods of time where we just don’t feel like ourselves, but the darker and colder days can seemingly send us into this funk more easily, and it can lead to a number of physical, mental and emotional symptoms, including:

  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Feeling listless, sad or not like yourself
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems falling asleep or oversleeping
  • Overeating

Extreme cases of seasonal affective disorder can also present with more severe depressive thoughts about self-harm and suicide, so SAD isn’t something that should just be shrugged off on the assumption that it will get better after winter. We get calls all the time related to mental health issues and welfare checks, and it’s imperative that you seek help if you or a loved one are dealing with any of the symptoms listed above.

Seeking Help For Seasonal Affective Disorder

While the team at Gold Cross Ambulance can help you in the midst of a mental health emergency, you’ll want to turn to your primary care provider or similar healthcare specialist if you want to talk to someone about your symptoms. We understand that it may be nice to curl up in bed when it’s cold and dark out, but if you’re becoming more reclusive and your eating and sleeping habits are worsening, turn to a healthcare professional to help address some of the underlying issues that could be contributing to your mental state.

SAD can oftentimes be diagnosed during a consultation with a healthcare provider. They can talk with you about your symptoms and conduct physical or psychological exams to better understand what you’re dealing with and how to best treat it.

Treatment varies from patient to patient, but many people are able to find a treatment that helps to decrease or eliminate some of the symptoms they are experiencing. Some of the most common treatments for seasonal affective disorder include:

Light Therapy – This technique involves a special light box that exposes you to bright light soon after you wake up each day. This light mimics the effects of natural outdoor light and can lead to the release of helpful brain chemicals and improve your mood and disposition.

Psychotherapy – Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, involves sitting down with a professional, talking about your symptoms, and developing healthy coping techniques that you can use to keep your symptoms at bay.

Medications – Antidepressants and other medications can also help re-balance hormonal issues in our body, but these are oftentimes most effective when paired with other techniques on this list.

Look out for your mental health and the mental health of those around you this fall and winter, because depression affects millions of people every year. Know the warning signs and help loved ones get the help they need to treat this incredibly common disorder. For help with a mental health issue or a referral to mental health resources in the Fox Valley, give the team at Gold Cross Ambulance a call today at (920) 727-3020.

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