With the beginning of a new year, we are all doing our best to adjust to the challenges brought about last year. Winter is now in full swing. Winter is usually associated with medical illnesses including viral infections and worsening of some lung conditions. This makes mental illness easily overlooked.
One condition that can be overlooked is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), specifically winter depression. This is when a person has depression symptoms (described below) that usually start in the late fall or early winter and will improve by spring time even without treatment.
Several factors specific to this region place people at risk for developing SAD including: decreased sunlight, harsh winter weather, and being away from family during the holiday season.
Depression symptoms include:
- Depressed mood
- Decreased interest in activities you used to be interested in
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Fatigue or having less energy
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Decreased concentration
- Suicidal thoughts
The important steps you should take are being aware of this condition and getting help if you need it. This is as simple as setting up an appointment with a Family Physician, or any primary care provider, to discuss what you are feeling. Winter depression is treatable and future episodes can be prevented.
Some things you can do are improve your diet, exercise, and limit alcohol consumption. There are several treatment options that your primary care provider can discuss with you including: having a support system, using an artificial light, talking to a therapist, taking medication, or a combination of these. Treatment will depend on the severity of your symptoms. If you would like to speak with a provider in regard to your mental health, Altru is happy to help you through this challenging time.
Our Altru team can help you navigate seasonal affective disorder and other mental health concerns. Learn about what our family medicine team can help you with at Altru’s Family Medicine and Primary Care Services.