Franciscan Health: Focus On – Seasonal Affective Disorder

By: Franciscan Health Last Updated: April 27, 2017

Franciscan-Health-Focus-On-Seasonal-Affective-DisorderSeasonal Affective Disorder, commonly called SAD, doesn’t just occur when the days get shorter and colder, it also can happen when they are longer and warmer, said Jean Lubeckis, a Franciscan Alliance licensed mental health therapist.

Although less common than in winter, SAD also can occur in late spring and early summer.

“It is believed longer days and increased heat, humidity and maybe seasonal allergies, cause it,” she said, adding, “Longer daylight hours might contribute to less sleep. A physician might recommend Melatonin and going to sleep earlier to help reset circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock).”

Some other symptoms of spring-summer SAD include:

  • Some other symptoms of spring-summer SAD include:
  • Depressed mood, low self-esteem
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and despair
  • Reeling angry, irritable, stressed, or anxious
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Changes in sleeping pattern
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Difficulty concentrating

According to Lubeckis, there are a number of remedies to counteract SAD, such as keeping the body cool, pulling down the shades, exercising, participating in social activities, avoiding carbs and sugars and getting regular sleep. If this does not help, medication, counseling and certain therapies (consult a physician) can help treat SAD.

YOU ALSO SHOULD KNOW
While three out of four SAD sufferers are women, men often experience more severe symptoms. In most cases SAD is first diagnosed in people aged 18 to 30 and is less likely to occur as they get older.

“Having relatives who have experienced SAD or another type of depression puts one at greater risk,” Lubeckis said. “People with bi-polar disorder can be at risk for episodes of mania or hypomania in spring or summer and be more vulnerable to depression in fall and winter.”

STRESS A YEAR-ROUND TROUBLEMAKER
Lubeckis pointed out that regardless of the time of year, too much stress can worsen or trigger depression.

“Figure out the things in your life that stress you out, such as work overload or unsupportive relationships, and make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact,” she said.

Steps for dealing with stress:

  • Practice daily relaxation techniques to help manage stress, reduce negative emotions and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Have fun — make time for pleasurable activities.

WHEN TO SEEK HELP

  • Symptoms are present for two to three consecutive years
  • There are no other reasons for depression (relationship issues, sickness or death, job loss, etc.)
  • Symptoms worsen and negatively impact abilities to function
  • One has suicidal thoughts, which means getting help immediately

Franciscan Alliance physicians are available to assist with mental health issues. To find one, visit: FranciscanDocs.org.