Coping with winter depression during the holiday season

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ST. LOUIS -  It's a joyous holiday season, but when the hustle and bustle of December is over, the darkness for some really sets in. For those who suffer from winter depression, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or "SAD,” mid-winter is especially hard.

The most difficult months for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder in the U.S. are usually January and February. At that time there is less sunlight and people are susceptible to daylight deprivation. The lack of sunlight causes the brain to make less serotonin and forces shifts in the biological internal clock.

According to Psychiatrist Kelechi Loynd people with Season Affective Disorder experience mood changes and symptoms similar to major depression, or hypomania.

Signs of seasonal depression include:

  • Low motivation
  • Impaired functioning
  • Procrastination
  • Feeling of dread

“It’s not just major depressive disorder it could also be bIpolar Disorder where people struggle more depending on the season. Typically, what you will see is people having more sadness or it could be mania too if they have bipolar disorder", said Dr. Loynd.

SAD is four times more common in women and younger people and is believed to be caused by a biochemical imbalance in the brain.

LaTanya Mackey Clinical Site Supervisor at Provident Behavioral Health strongly believes Mental Health care providers are expecting to see an increase in people suffering from seasonal depression.

The main treatment for SAD is using light therapy. The special lights mimic natural outdoor light offsetting the effects of light deprivation.  For more severe cases of seasonal affective disorder, doctors recommend medications, mainly anti-depressants, and therapy.

Keeping your home bright and sunny can help reduce seasonal affective disorder and doctors say it’s especially important to be exposed to sunlight within two hours of waking up.

Spending a little extra time outside is also helpful.

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of seasonal depression contact Provident Crisis Hotline at (314)647- 4357 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273- 8255

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