Holiday Cheer and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Daylight Saving Time (DST) was first employed in Germany in 1916. The practice of  “springing forward” one hour in the summer and “falling back” again in fall, is said to capitalize on natural daylight and save energy.

However, some studies show that DST might be harmful to the population’s health and safety. In 2008, a Swedish study discovered that heart attacks and traffic accidents increase in the days following DST. One of the most prevalent and long lasting issues associated with DST is seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Mayo Clinic defines SAD as a type of depression related to changes in seasons beginning and ending at roughly the same time each year. Though it comes and goes SAD is considered a subtype of major depression and shares many of the same symptoms. In addition to the basic, more recognizable markers of markers of depression, fall and winter SAD might induce irritability, exhaustion, weight gain and a weighted feeling in the limbs.

According to mentalhealthamerica.net, about 5 percent of the U.S. population begins to experience seasonal depression between the ages of 20 and 30; four out of five of which are women. Typically, those further from the equator are more at risk.

 

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Source: mayoclinic.org Created by D. Payne for dlpwrites.com
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Source: mayoclinic.org
Created by D. Payne for dlpwrites.com

Though many experience a declining mood during the colder months, SAD is more than a case of the blues; it functions much like standard depression and comes with serious complications.  Without treatment SAD may become worse and grow to include substance abuse, social withdrawal, suicidal thoughts and problems at school or work.

Facebook user Dena Lynn posted a detailing her struggle with SAD.
Facebook user Dena Lynn posted a detailing her struggle with SAD.

The lack of sunlight in winter months  affect the body’s serotonin and melatonin levels causing changes in mood and sleep patterns. During DST the biological clock is disrupted– similar to jet lag- and can cause a shift in the body’s mental and physical health.

 

Poet, Rachel McKibbens tweeted an encouraging message to her followers dealing with seasonal depression on 11/26/16
Poet, Rachel McKibbens tweeted an encouraging message to her followers dealing with seasonal depression on 11/26/16

Like standard depression SAD can be treated using therapies and medication.  Light therapy is commonly accepted as the most effective treatment and is often used in conjunction with antidepressants and/or psychotherapy. Professionals also suggest lifestyle changes such as getting more sunlight,exercising and maintaining a healthy diet. Wellness Strategist and Linkedin user Robin Westphal published Staying on Top of Business When you Have Seasonal Affective Disorder to assist entrepreneurs in keeping up their business during the winter months.

If you think that you may be living with SAD, visit your doctor, ask questions, get tested and diagnosed and begin learning to manage your depression.

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