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.”


Depression in Men - A Hidden Epidemic

Society has come a long way in recognizing this difference, but one stereotype remains: Men are looked upon as weak if they become emotional. This stereotype has played a role in many men deciding not to address their depression.

This untreated depression has directly led to the death of at least one man I know, and he is certainly not the only one to take his own life because “life just wasn’t worth living.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “In 2012, an estimated 16 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This represented 6.9 percent of all U.S. adults.”

Although women are nearly three times more likely to experience depression in their lifetime, the men who do experience depression are much less likely to seek help. Statistically, men are much more likely to attempt to “self-medicate” or “tough it out on their own.” This leads to men committing suicide at a much higher rate than women. Imagine waking everyday with nothing to look forward to, feeling like everything is a hassle and hopelessly trying to figure out why.

Many things can cause depression. It can be a chemical imbalance in your brain, an ongoing problem at home/work or a combination of the two. The symptoms of depression vary greatly; change in appetite, change in sleep patterns, constant feeling of impending doom, anger, aggressiveness, and restlessness. These are just a few of the more common symptoms in men, but the one many can relate to most is a lack of desire for life. Depression is more than just a decrease in mood caused by a bad day. Depression is a persistent sadness that makes it hard to function and enjoy life like you have in the past.

When I talk to men about depression, I use an example of a man in his early thirties, married with two kids, a good job, nice house and all the toys for the family to enjoy themselves with. His weekend begins on Wednesday when he begins to look forward to the camping trip with the family. They are going to the mountains to camp in their trailer and ride four-wheelers with friends. He begins to plan the trails to ride and which peaks they want to visit. He wakes up early Friday morning to pack the trailer and get the four-wheelers loaded. All this time he loves what he is doing; he looks forward to time with family and friends and willingly prepares for a weekend of fun.

Now look at this same man in his late thirties. He's still married to the same great woman, and both kids are doing well in school. He has the same job, same house and still owns all of the toys. His wife asks if they are going camping with friends this weekend. At this point in his life, he is deeply depressed due to a chemical imbalance caused by age. He doesn’t think about the weekend of fun the same way. Instead, he is overwhelmed with the hassle of getting everything ready to go. He has to clean the trailer and get the four-wheelers ready. All he can think about is how much hassle this trip would be; how much work it will be to prepare.

There is only one thing that has changed in this example. The man is depressed. His depression has caused him to have a different perspective on what normally would be a fun family activity. His depression causes him to view everything as a “hassle” and to consider it as “work.” This is an example of depression and the impact it can have in our lives.

When things get to the point that you no longer find joy and happiness in the things you once loved, things can get pretty hopeless for us men. I think this is when most of us consider a way out. I beg each and every one of you reading this to ask for help if you are depressed. If you know of someone who is depressed, help him. There are solutions; the thing to remember is that you don't have to live with depression. If you have a loved one you think may be dealing with depression, don’t wait until it is too late.

Published on Sept. 18, 2014