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How to beat the “Winter Blues” for Good

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seasonal affective disorderBy Grant Stenzel, MS Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

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 Winter Depression, warm and sunny times 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.


A Serious Condition

This is not just a case of “cabin fever.” The symptoms of SAD are much like those of depression and can include sleepiness, lethargy, feelings of despair, poor attention span and increased appetite. Women are especially prone, 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.


What to Do to Fight the Winter Blues

Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Treatment is available. Options usually include a combination of counseling, light therapy, and in some cases, medication. 


Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder includes properly diagnosing the disorder and developing the mode of treatment that is best for you. A good first step would be to make an appointment with a trained therapist for an assessment.

A professional mental health provider can also provide support and encouragement through the difficult winter months. Clinicians at Stenzel Clinical specialize in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder. Our therapists are available to work with youth, adolescents, and adults

Light Therapy

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 days of treatment. However, heat lamps of UV should not be used, however.

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.


Stenzel Clinical Can Help

If you believe you are not merely longing for spring but are suffering from symptoms of SAD, please seek assistance. With proper treatment, you can enjoy a better quality of life and kiss those Winter Blues goodbye. We would be happy to talk with you.

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