The holidays are officially here. There are plenty of great things to see and do in the Treasure Valley all season long, like Winter Garden Aglow, starting December 2 at the Idaho Botanical Garden, the Family Holiday Concert December 4 at the Morrison Center, Snowman Tales and Carols at the Boise Train Depot, and numerous tree lightings and Christmas light tours. But even in the midst of all the merriment, some Treasure Valley residents find themselves feeling depressed, and the likely culprit is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). With fewer hours of sunlight and colder weather, SAD can take a heavy toll in the winter months. Here’s what you need to know about seasonal affective disorder.
No one is sure what causes SAD, but it is thought to be associated with a decrease in ambient light. At the end of daylight savings time, there are fewer hours of sunlight each day. This can throw off your body clock, causing you to produce too much melatonin. As a result, it is harder to get out of bed each day and you just feel like you’re in a funk. Other theories are that SAD is related to lower body temperatures, such as those we experience in the winter months, and hormone regulation.
Animals that hibernate during the colder months experience slower breathing, decreased body temperature and a slower metabolism. This is similar to the effects that SAD has on people. Those with seasonal affective disorder often have decreased energy and concentration, especially marked by afternoon slumps. And the craving for carbohydrates—such as that candy bar at the grocery checkout line after work or that plate of muffins in the office break room—can be hard to keep in check. The increase in appetite, combined with daytime lethargy, and the glut of holiday treats everywhere you go, can easily lead to weight gain. Other symptoms of SAD include depression, decreased interest in work or other activities, and social withdrawal.
Social withdrawal is always a warning sign. If you notice someone going through this and suspect they are suffering from SAD, ask if there’s something you can do to help. It could be something more serious than the winter blues—it could signal the beginning of severe depression. So don’t take it lightly if you notice these symptoms in yourself or someone you know.
Sometimes SAD can be remedied with light therapy, which involves using a special lamp to replicate sunlight. And in some cases, talk therapy or antidepressant medication is necessary. Symptoms generally clear up after the change of seasons, and some people may experience them annually while others may have it every so often. It’s a serious issue, and not to be taken lightly.
For a list of local practitioners who can help with seasonal affective disorder, click on this link.
Talk it up:
Do you feel you the effects of seasonal affective disorder?
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