How to Beat the “Winter Blues” for Good
by Jennifer Stenzel, LCPC
Are the dark, grim winter days getting you down? Are you dreaming of sunshine?
Many living in the Midwest look forward to Spring. However, for the 10 million Americans who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, spring cannot come quickly enough.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as SAD, is a disorder that affects a person’s mood and is caused by light deprivation. Therefore, people begin to feel depressed beginning in the fall and often do not find relief until late spring when the days become longer. Symptoms are much like those of depression and can include sleepiness, lethargy, feelings of despair, poor attention span and increased appetite. Women are especially prose as up to 75 percent of SAD suffers are women. Furthermore, research indicates that the farther north of the Equator one gets, the higher the incidence of SAD.
Fortunately, treatment is available. Effective treatment includes the combination of counseling, light therapy, and in some cases, medication.
Counseling includes properly diagnosing the disorder, developing a mode of treatment, and providing support and encouragement through the winter months.
Light therapy consists of using a light box, which employs full-spectrum light bulbs. The light box is used daily for approximately 30 minutes to two hours. Those who respond to light therapy often notice improved moods after only two to four day of treatment. Heat lamps of UV should not be used, however. Moreover, light therapy is not recommended for people who have a photosensitive skin or are taking medications that increase light sensitivity. Those who have had eye surgery should not use light therapy as well. In short, light therapy should only be administered under the guidance of a health professional.
For those individuals who do not respond to counseling or light therapy, medication may be in order. The science behind SAD involves the regulation of the hormone melatonin and the neurotransmitter serotonin. When the days are short and light is scarce, more melatonin is produced, thus decreasing serotonin in the brain. Certain anti-depressant medications are effective because they increase serotonin concentration at synapses in the central nervous system. Hence, raising one’s mood.
If you believe you are not merely longing for spring but are suffering from symptoms of SAD, seek assistance. Clinicians at Stenzel Clinical specialize in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder. You may make an appointment for an assessment, to view a light box, or to receive a referral for medication. Therapists are available to work with youth, adolescents, and adults.
With proper treatment, you can enjoy a better quality of life and kiss those winter blues goodbye.