SAD and the Blues

Due to the longer nights and cool weather, there are a handful of people that dwell on depressing thoughts and emotions despite the festivities around them. Until recently (sometime 1985), it has been identified that there is such a thing as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which “is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you’re like most people with seasonal affective disorder, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, seasonal affective disorder causes depression in the spring or early summer.” (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder)

Although we don’t particularly experience the abrupt changes of the seasons, there may still be cases of the blues that some people may experience during the cool -er months, starting September til early February. A striking example would be the common expression, “SMC or Samahang Malamig na Pasko” or even the popular Christmas song of Gary Valenciano, “Pasko na Sinta Ko.”  These indicate that even if we do not have winter as a season, there are times when our loneliness or sadness are magnified by the joyous atmosphere surrounding us, as if we cannot relate to the reason for their merriment.

What causes people to experience SAD? While most sources cite lack of daylight as the main source, it is still relatively unknown. However there are certain factors that may contribute to an individual’s predisposition to SAD like genetics (you have a family history or your relatives have been diagnosed to be clinically depressed), hormonal imbalances affected by seasonal changes and circadian rhythm or biological clocks. The cool mornings sometimes affect our body clock into wanting to have more sleep hours, thereby influencing us to be less energetic, that we sometimes just drag ourselves out of bed, which also affects our mood for the rest of the day. Natural hormones like serotonin and melatonin are affected by reduced exposure to sunlight, and they are responsible for our feelings of happiness and positive emotions.

How will one know if he/she has SAD?  There are a number of symptoms that may indicate you are suffering from SAD. One general behavior is change in sleep pattern. There seems to be a general craving to sleep more or there is difficulty staying awake during the day. Another is a pervasive low mood, different and worse than normal sadness. General negative thoughts and feelings are experienced for days, along with feelings of hopelessness and despair. Some could also experience a loss of interest in people, are generally irritable and withdraws from interacting with friends. Most sufferers show signs of a weakened immune system during the winter, and are more vulnerable to infections and other illnesses. Successful suicide attempts also happen during the festive month of December to early January.

It is important, then, to be vigilant of people, especially our friends and loved ones, and their behavior. Instead of teasing them as being overacting or “emo” during these times, we should be more careful in bringing them back to the light, literally and figuratively. It is time to see a doctor or refer these people to a professional as early as possible. It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you or somebody close to you feels down for days at a time and you can’t seem to get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, seek help. This is particularly important if you notice that your sleep patterns and appetite have changed or if you feel hopeless, think about suicide, or find yourself turning to alcohol for comfort or relaxation.

The only known and effective treatments for SAD adjunct to clinical pharmacology are light therapy (periodic regular exposure to bright light) and psychotherapy (or counseling).

this is actually a write up i had to make for ecube. and this is just part 1

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