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Are you sad because of SAD?

Patricia Smith Taylor, LPC
Insight Clinical Counseling and Wellness

I am a mental health counselor and for the past two weeks my clients who had been making progress in controlling their symptoms of depression, have been reporting concerns about increasing sadness. I then assess them for SAD.

SAD is a mood disorder also called Seasonal Affective Disorder which is characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year. It occurs in climates where there is less sunlight at certain times of the year. It is VERY COMMON and there are more than 15 million US cases per year. Hello tri-state residents.

You may be saying, ‘but the weather has been beautiful, how can I have SAD?’ The answer is homoeostasis which is a fancy work for balance. It literally means the state of steady internal, physical and chemical conditions maintained by living organisms. Your body likes to be in balance and its goal is to stay in balance as much as possible. You may feel as if you are balanced, but your body picks up on subtle clues before you may be aware of them.

Remember three weeks ago? We had four or five days which were unseasonably cold, wet and gloomy. It passed and we have had two weeks of beautiful weather. But your body noticed the difference and started its fight to remain stable and signal you something is changing.
What is the correlation between SAD and sunlight? Sunlight generates Vitamin D which supports bone health, lowers blood pressure, prevents disease and PROMOTES GOOD MENTAL HEALTH.

On June 21st Ohio has on average 15 hours and 11 minutes of daylight. On December 21st the average is 9 hours and 10 minutes of daylight. On November 5th Daylight Savings Time ended and we lost one hour of sunlight.

Reduced sunlight disrupts your body’s internal clock. It also drops serotonin, a brain chemical that affects your mood. And a change in the season can disrupt the body’s level of melatonin which plays an important role in sleep patterns and your mood.

What are the symptoms of fall and winter SAD? Oversleeping, appetite changes, especially in food high in carbs, weight gain and tiredness or low energy.

What can you do if you suspect you have SAD?

  • Monitor your symptoms, you know yourself better than anyone else and if you have been feeling out of sorts during the past few weeks, you may have SAD
  • Research SAD and follow the recommendations for improving your mood.
  • Talk with your doctor and ask if you should be taking Vitamin D
  • Get sun. Even if you must wear a coat, when the sun is out, you go out. Sunlight is therapeutic.
  • Consider light therapy. Sitting in front of a light box or lamp that mimics natural light first thing in the morning may improve your mood. Be aware it may take up to 3 weeks to see improvement with light therapy.

    Who is at risk for SAD? Females, young people, having a family member with SAD and having other mental health disorders.

    During these past three years, it is normal to have some or may days when you feel down, but if you feel down for days and you can’t get motivated to participate in activities you normally enjoy or notice that your mood is affecting your level of functioning – seek professional help. You can talk with a mental health counselor from the comfort of your home using safe and confidential video sessions

    Keep in mind, SAD is a mild, normal mental health disorder that can be successfully treated. You are not alone and December 21st when the days begin to lengthen is only 44 days away.

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