By Jennifer Miller Kass, MSW, LCSW, Behavioral Health Administrative Director at Southwest Behavioral Services
With all the fog that has fallen on our picturesque community lately, it can be hard to feel excited about getting out of bed or finding motivation. Gloomy and dreary winter weather has this effect on many of us. The days are shorter, sunshine is harder to find, and life in general just seems to slow down a bit. For some, however, these changes can trigger something more than just a mild slump. For some, a deeper depression takes over. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, and you’re not alone.
SAD can trigger feelings of hopelessness, a lack of energy, loss of pleasure, changes in sleep habits and appetite, and even thoughts of suicide. Some people also experience heaviness in their arms and legs, frequent oversleeping, weight gain or cravings, and difficulty with relationships. It’s a real condition. There’s a real diagnosis. And there is also a real treatment.
It’s important to know that there’s no stigma that comes with suffering from depression, seasonal or otherwise. Depression affects more than 15 million American adults. SAD is a very common diagnosis and should be taken seriously, too. If you feel like you’re withdrawing socially or experiencing symptoms that are not normal for you, pick up the phone, and call your doctor. You should also seek immediate help if you are using drugs or alcohol to manage symptoms or if you are having suicidal thoughts.
Once you take that first step to getting help, your practitioner will work with you to find a treatment or combination of treatments that help you. No one treatment is right for everyone. Treatments for SAD can include medication in the form of antidepressants, psychotherapy or talk therapy, light therapy, and more.
In addition to visiting your practitioner, you can make simple lifestyle changes to help improve your mood. Try going outside more often; get plenty of sunlight and exercise. Avoid drugs and alcohol and get plenty of sleep. Try meditation or yoga. Grab a friend and go to a movie or head out shopping. It’s important to find something that you enjoy and don’t be afraid to take that step to feeling better.
Winter will end, and the sun will shine more often again. Don’t beat yourself up if your symptoms don’t improve right away. Getting help now will help you manage your symptoms in the future, and live a longer, happier life.
For more information on SAD or to make an appointment call Southwest Behavioral Services at (608) 348-3656. If you’re having suicidal thoughts or tendencies call the 24-hour mental health crisis line for Grant & Iowa counties at (800) 362-5717.