Jamie Goffin, LCSW
I love the switch into fall, because it means football games, pumpkin-spiced goodies and who can resist the color changes. For some, these are exciting changes to look forward… for others it is usually associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression. The symptoms are very similar to depression, however it usually starts in the fall, worsens during winter and ends in the spring.
While there is no exact theory of the cause of SAD it does cause disruptions in people’s lives. One theory is that the body’s biological clock, which regulates sleep and mood, shifts due to lack of sunlight exposure. Another theory is that reduced sunlight can drop serotonin levels. Experts also believe sunlight reduction made disrupt the body’s ability to produce enough melatonin.
It’s important as health care providers that we keep an eye on our patient’s progress during this season so we can notice if patients are struggling more during the winter. I like to include an information sheet of SAD Symptoms in my waiting area and have a conversation about the symptoms as a preventive conversation. According to the National Institute of Health, these are the symptoms that we discuss:
- Tired/low energy
- Cravings for carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Trouble concentrating
- Withdrawing socially
- Loss of interest
- Sleeping more than usual
Your probably thinking, this is depression! Yes, but keep in mind that development of symptoms aligns with fall and intensifies during the winter months. Clients who are vulnerable or working to maintain new changes can be greatly impacted if they are affected by SAD and if not recognized early on can contribute to regression or relapses to old behaviors.
There are many great ways that someone who suffers with SAD can manage their symptoms. Here are some tips:
- Go Outside
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule
- Connect with Others
- Increase Vitamin D intake
- Eat Clean
- Try Light Therapy
- Try Doing Something Different in your Routine