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SAD: Beyond the winter blues

Main Line Health January 28, 2014 General Wellness

woman sitting with a forlorn lookIt’s common for people to experience a post-holiday letdown or a lack of motivation and energy during the shorter, darker, winter days, but these are usually just temporary feelings. For some people, a case of the winter blues can last a lot longer than a few days, which can be a sign of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

“Seasonal affective disorder goes beyond a case of the blues,” explains Lisa Adams, CRNP at Main Line HealthCare in Audubon and Paoli Hospital. “It can really overtake a person’s mood and negatively affect their daily functioning and the ability to enjoy the activities they usually do.”

Although SAD can affect anyone, more women are affected by the disorder than men, in part because of hormonal changes and the role of many women as natural caregivers.

“Women are caregivers by nature. They put everyone’s needs before their own, but it can lead to burn out and overwhelmed,” explains Adams.

So how do you know if you’re suffering from SAD? And what can you do about it?

Patients who are diagnosed with SAD often exhibit symptoms like feelings of hopelessness and anxiety, a loss of interest, weight loss or weight gain, lack of energy, irritability, and trouble sleeping or oversleeping. The disorder can also manifest itself physically through headaches, an upset stomach, or persistent pain. These symptoms can start as early as the fall and last until spring.

If you’re dealing with these symptoms, it might be hard to admit, but don’t tell yourself to “push through it” or ignore the issue, says Adams. Instead, talk to your health care provider, who might be able to recommend a psychologist who can help.

In addition to talking to your health care provider, try other ways to improve your mood:

  • Force yourself to get out of the house and go to a movie, bookstore, or the mall
  • Seek support from your friends and family. Talk about what you’re feeling so that they understand
  • Exercise daily for 30 minutes and try to maintain a healthy diet

If you’re struggling with a persistent case of the blues or everyday stress has started to take its toll, Main Line Health provides behavioral health services to help you cope. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.