Thursday, December 1, 2011

Too SAD for the Holidays?

While everyone around you is humming Christmas songs, pulling out their Hannukah decorations or making ski vacation plans , are you left feeling sad? Perhaps it's not the holiday blues, but SAD- Seasonal Affective Disorder. This depressive disorder was formally named only a few decades ago, in the 1980's. It affects over half a million people each winter, including some symtoms in up to a third of patients seeing their primary care physicians during this season.

Who gets seasonal affective disorder? It's most common in women (3:1 over males) and young adults 20-30 years old, but it is seen in across the board. January and February are the most common months that SAD is diagnosed.

What are the complaints? Often fatigue, weight gain and recurrent illness are the primary issues, rather than simply "sadness".The simples range from a mild case of "winter blues" to serious depression.

What is the cause? There are different theories, most of which are linked to hours of sunlight. There is disruption in our circadian rhythms as well as decreased seratonin secretion during winter months, and of course, less Sunshine vitamin (Vitamin D).

Prevention? Light therapy (using full spectrum light bulbs in your home and work) or consciously spending more time outside in the sunlight can help prevent S.A.D. Of course, moving to a more southern location can help, especially if you are far north, but that is not typically feasible for most people.

Treatment? Light therapy, anti-depressant medications (Buproprion is the only one FDA indicated, but SSRI's are also used), and Vitamin D replacement (if low) all have shown effectiveness in improving symptoms.

BOTTOM LINE: If you recognize a pattern of feeling sluggish every winter and perking up in the spring and summer, talk to your doctor and see if together you can change "S.A.D." to glad this year!

PS. Happy December 1st! Change those air filters!!

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