Coming Apart at the Seams, [S.A.D.]

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Seasonal Affective Disorder is real

If you notice periods of depression that seem to accompany seasonal changes during the year, you may suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This condition is characterized by recurrent episodes of depression – usually in late fall and winter – alternating with periods of normal or high mood the rest of the year.

Most people with SAD are women whose illness typically begins in their twenties, although men also report SAD of similar severity and have increasingly sought treatment. SAD can also occur in children and adolescents, in which case the syndrome is first suspected by parents and teachers. Many people with SAD report at least one close relative with a psychiatric condition, most frequently a severe depressive disorder (55 percent) or alcohol abuse (34 percent).

What are the patterns of SAD? Symptoms of “winter SAD” usually begin in October or November and subside in March or April. Some patients begin to slump as early as August, while others remain well until January. Regardless of the time of onset, most patients don’t feel fully back to normal until early May.

Their depressions are usually mild to moderate, but they can be severe. Very few patients with SAD have required hospitalization, and even fewer have been treated with electroconvulsive therapy.

The usual characteristics of recurrent winter depression include:

  • oversleeping,
  • daytime fatigue,
  • carbohydrate craving
  • and weight gain, although a patient does not necessarily show these symptoms.

Additionally, there are the usual features of depression, especially decreased sexual interest, lethargy, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, lack of interest in normal activities, and social withdrawal.

Treating your SAD

Light therapy is now considered the first-line treatment intervention, and if properly dosed can produce relief within days. Antidepressants may also help, and if necessary can be used in conjunction with light. In about 1/10th of cases, annual relapse occurs in the summer rather than winter, possibly in response to high heat and humidity. During that period, the depression is more likely to be characterized by insomnia, decreased appetite, weight loss, and agitation or anxiety.

Interestingly, patients with such “reverse SAD” often find relief with summer trips to cooler climates in the north. Generally, normal air conditioning is not sufficient to relieve this depression, and an antidepressant may be needed. In still fewer cases, a patient may experience both winter and summer depressions, while feeling fine each fall and spring, around the equinoxes. The most common characteristic of people with winter SAD is their reaction to changes in environmental light.

Latitudes effect attitudes
Latitudes effect attitudes

Patients living at different latitudes note that their winter depressions are longer and more profound the farther north they live. Patients with SAD also report that their depression worsens or reappears whenever the weather is overcast at any time of the year, or if their indoor lighting is decreased. SAD is often misdiagnosed as hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, infectious mononucleosis, and other viral infections.

http://www.ncpamd.com/seasonal.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195

http://www.alaskanorthernlights.com/

 

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Hope in the Darkness

Winter can be a particularly trying time for those who struggle with depression and bipolar disorder. The increased darkness outside can begin to reflect in our hearts and so increase the darkness within.

I know Pr. Bryan has posted here before about the challenge of winters in Alaska where the days are extremely short. But even in the Pacific Northwest, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a big problem. When you drive to work in very little light and drive home again in pitch dark, which is even darker when it is raining, it is hard to remember the long days of summer.

It is during this dark season that we must cling even more to the Light of Christ so that the darkness does not overcome us. We must cling to the faithfulness of our God who brings the sun every morning and the seasons in their turn, so that we know spring and summer will follow the darkness.

Thinking about this one dark night earlier this week, I wrote a poem, which I posted on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog, as a Thankful Thursday post. I hope you like my ode to God’s promise of hope and light that stands firm even in the darkness, and that it reminds you of the hope we have in Jesus.

Hope in the Darkness

Sun sinks below the horizon
Darkness envelopes all life in my view
Each night the darkness comes sooner
Each morning the sun arises anew

This season, winter, brings darkness
It seems to engulf the light of my soul
Sometimes the darkness is deeper
And blacker than the blackest mine of coal

But winter does not last forever
Spring and summer bring sun ever near
Hope of a Light everlasting
Is all that my darkened soul needs to hear

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:4-5 (NIV).

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