Seasonal Affective Disorder

Daylight change can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder – by Mitch Shaw

Standard Examiner - Monday, November 14, 2016

As the days grow increasingly darker, colder, shorter and less colorful, the chances for one to encounter a bout of seasonal depression spike.

According to University of Utah Health Care, depression in the form of Seasonal Affective Disorder strikes most often during the fall or winter as less daylight can trigger a chemical change in the brain and cause depressive symptoms.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms of SAD include the following: irritability; increased desire to sleep or low energy; problems getting along with other people; hypersensitivity to rejection; oversleeping; appetite changes, especially craving foods high in carbohydrates, weight gain. 

Nick Call, a clinical social worker and therapist in North Ogden, said SAD symptoms can also mirror the severe symptoms of general depression, including thoughts of suicide and death.

“It can be very serious for some people,” Call said. “In a lot of (serious) cases, it co-occurs with another issue, like drug and alcohol abuse or prior depression and anxiety.”

Call said SAD typically begins around the time daylight savings ends, but can also occur during other times of the year.

“Sometimes it’s the first snow, sometimes it’s January when it’s been cold and dark for a while and you body begins to react (chemically),” he said.

The Mayo Clinic says some people experience opposite patterns, with symptoms flaring up in spring or summer.

Call says people should start to pay more attention to how their feeling as winter sets in.

“Knowing it’s happening is a huge thing,” he said. “Being able to recognize it is key.”

Once diagnosed, Call says patients can heal through a large spectrum of treatment options. The disorder can be diagnosed through a mental health exam and most often treated with light therapy, therapy, and antidepressants.

“There are a lot of things you can do,” he said. “Mindfulness exercises, diet and exercise, medication.”

Call said people with SAD should be encouraged to seek the help they need.

“Often times there can be this irrational belief that someone will have a negative opinion of you if you take medication or seek (professional) help,” Call said. “The stigma is there, but sometimes that’s exactly what a person needs to get better.”