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“Winter blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder got you down? Know risk factors, signs and treatments

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Posted at 5:36 AM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 06:11:26-05

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — Do these long, cold, gray days got you feeling down?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression some people deal with during winter (or even summer). Who’s most at-risk, the signs of SAD, and how to best to combat it is the focus of today’s living a better life.

Many of us feel like we’re in the doldrums during the dark, dreary days.

Steve Fink of West Bloomfield said he’s been dealing with the so-called "Winter Blues" for many years. “All my life. All my life. As long as I can remember,” he said.

“It’s just Michigan. Hey, that’s the way it is around here,” said Myles Earnest of West Bloomfield.

When asked if she gets the “Winter Blues,” Fran Halliday of Fenton replied, “I do. Definitely. Definitely. We all do. It gets so gray.”

But if you always feel down as the winter season rolls on, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD -- a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons.

SYMPTOMS

Some of the symptoms?

“Fatigue, sluggishness, as well as depressed mood, loss of interest in things you usually enjoy,” said Dr. Jaclyn Issner, a clinical psychologist in West Bloomfield.

She said other symptoms include change in appetite, loss of concentration, feelings of worthlessness, restlessness and suicidal thoughts.

RISK FACTORS

If you’re a woman, you’re more at risk.

The mood disorder is diagnosed four times more often in women than men according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Other risk factors? A family history of depression, having depression or bipolar disorder and age. SAD is also more common among younger adults.

TREATMENTS

Light therapy is one of the easiest ways to treat SAD. Make sure you find a light therapy lamp that has 10,000-lux intensity. Experts recommend you spend 20 minutes to an hour a day exposed to the light, and it should improve your mood.

Dr. Issner said cognitive behavioral therapy can also be a good treatment along with medication, vitamin D and a dose of activity.

“If you start scheduling enjoyable activities so that you make sure you’re being active, you’re getting outside, even though it’s cold. Fresh air is good for you, you’re getting exercise. You maybe are doing some yoga or some other relaxation strategies,” explained Dr. Issner.

Dr. Issner said sometimes even meeting up with friends can help boost your mood. She said it can be helpful to feed off of the energy of others.

Bottom line, if you’ve been feeling depression that coincides with a specific season for at least two years, you may be dealing with SAD.

Contact your mental health professional or your family doctor for a consultation.

And, remember, those light therapy lamps are not a bad place to start. Most of these lamps range in price from $35 to $80 online.