As the weather starts to cool and the days become shorter, many may start to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and easing up in the spring.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, individuals who have SAD generally have prolonged feelings of sadness, low energy, increased desire for sleep, overeating, weight gain and social withdrawal. These symptoms might be caused by an overproduction of melatonin, underproduction of Vitamin D or trouble regulating serotonin – a key neurotransmitter involving mood.
“Seasonal Affective Disorder is four times more likely to affect women and studies have shown the farther north you live, the more likely you might have SAD,” said TMH’s Senior Life Solutions Program Director Amy Graham, BSN. “A family history of SAD and having a depression diagnosis may also increase the likelihood.”
There are a few ways to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder on your own.
- Make your environment brighter and allow more sunlight in. Open the blinds, cut tree branches that might block sunlight and take advantage of the warmth by sitting by a sunny window.
- Weather permitting, go outside. It can be as simple as sitting on a bench or eating lunch at a nearby park. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light will help, particularly if you spend time outside within two hours of waking up in the morning.
- Exercise regularly. Go for a walk with a friend or join a local fitness group. Physical activity will help relieve stress and anxiety.
Seniors are at a greater risk of developing depression, but are often misdiagnosed or undertreated. “If you think you or someone you know is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, it is important to consult a doctor for a diagnosis,” said Graham. “A physician will be able to give the right treatment to help you through the winter months.”
Taylorville Memorial Hospital’s Senior Life Solutions is designed specifically for seniors and provides the proper guidance and regular attention of experienced professionals leading to an improved lifestyle and overall health. Led by Richard B. Alexander, MD, of Memorial Physician Services – Vine Street, TMH’s Senior Life Solutions is designed to foster true healing and a safe return to an optimum lifestyle. If you or an older adult you know and love is struggling, contact Amy Graham at 217-824-1896 for more information on the help and services available or visit taylorvillememorial.org.