Guest Post: Health Challenges Faced in Winter Months

 

Today I have another guest post for you, this one on a subject that many people, including myself, are affected by, Seasonal Affective Disorder also  known as SAD.  Tammy shows us that there are really two types, which I didn’t know, and how to treat them.  The best part is you don’t have to resort to prescription medication to get relief.

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Health Challenges we Face During the Winter Months

There are several health challenges that people face during the winter months. The common cold and flu, and conditions such as arthritis are more painful during the cold winter months. However, one of the biggest challenges for many people is SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD can be mild to severe and can cause the sufferer a great deal of despair.

What is SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder generally starts about the same time every year in the mid to late fall and carry on into the winter months. For some people it may last into the spring and early summer.

It is important to understand that seasonal affective disorder is not just what many call the “winter blues.” It is a real disorder that causes depression. As the seasons progress so does the condition.

The Two Types of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder

There are actually two types of seasonal affective disorder. The fall and winter version of the disorder is called SAD and the spring and summer version of the disorder is called reverse seasonal affective disorder. People who have reverse seasonal affective disorder start to show symptoms in mid to late spring and it goes through the summer months into the mid fall season. In most cases, it is gone by the end of the fall season. In some rare cases, people have both types of SAD. However, the symptoms are not the same so it cannot be simply labeled as “depression.”

Symptoms of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • Feelings of depression

  • Loss of energy

  • Weight gain (carbohydrate cravings)

  • Loss of interest in hobbies

  • Sleeping more

  • Difficulty concentrating

Symptoms of SAD – Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • Weight loss

  • Increased sex drive

  • Anxiety

  • Trouble sleeping – insomnia

  • Irritability

Both types of SAD should not be taken lightly they need to be addressed and treated properly.

Treatment Options

Medications such as antidepressants are generally the first type of treatment a doctor will want to try. This can be difficult because if you do not need the anti-depressants during the “non-affected” months the patient will have to be weaned off the meds and then start taking them again at least 2-3 weeks before the onset of symptoms start. Therefore, most doctors leave the patient on the medication year round even if it is not needed.

Another popular choice of treatment is therapy and this is usually used with medication. The idea is to help the person change their negative belief patterns and learn different tools to help with their stress, anxiety and depression.

The third treatment option is light therapy. This treatment involves a light therapy box that the person uses every day for a period of approximately 30 minutes. It is used to create the same effects of sunlight. Therefore, with Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder it is not recommended. It has minimal side effects and only takes a few days to start working.

Most people find that light therapy is the best treatment because it can be used when needed and the person will not have withdrawal like they do from anti-depressants.

Tammy Mahan has been a nurse for over 20 years. She enjoys sharing her knowledge by writing articles for Healthline.com.

14 Comments

  1. I know its not pleasant to go through these symptoms Lois, And here in the UK goodness knows we get more than our fair share of cloudy and no Sun days through our winter months.. I think that is why so many people in 2012 were so ready for the spring of this year, as it was a terrible Summer with rain most days and a gloomy wet autumn and one of the coldest snowiest winters on record…

    I know I get more tired, and recently both of us have noticed our energy drop, because the weather hasn’t been good have not been getting out in the garden as much.. So we have made a plan to try and take a short walk every day… Thus helping keep the weight levels down LOL :-) as I have a habbit of baking comfort foods and yes the stew pot is on the go along with home made soups and crusty home made bread I have been making recently.. :-)

    I hope you can find ways of battling around this illness Lois, as I know its not possible for your to go outdoors once the snow is on the ground..
    A very interesting article you have shared.. Thank you xox Sue

    • Sue, I fear this winter will be tough as we had a lousy summer, it felt like autumn came and we were still waiting for a real summer to show up. We have a foot of snow this morning and I expect this will be a long winter.

      During the winter I do have a bit more balance than in summer. I have more time without company which allows me to get things done but then I look forward to the little ones visiting as they make me laugh and that helps me from getting too low.

      I too struggle with my weight, especially in the last few years as my ability to get around has been so limited, it’s a vicious cycle but eating predominantly soups for my main meal helps as they are low in calories and satisfying.

  2. T o begin with I thought you were pulling our leg with the suggestion there was a condition called ‘ reverse SAD until I looked at mr G…..- there are pages and pages of articles etc.
    You live and learn every day – I’m a sunshine girl and even though our winters are not harsh compared to some I do miss the sun and often get “‘the miseries’ as I call it.
    Cathy

    • Cathy, I too thought that was made up and verified it before I posted it. I too learned something from this one which is the great thing about the internet :-)

      I like the term “miseries” I may have to borrow that one from you. One of the things I learned to do this time of the year is to mentally prepare for those dreary days. I check the forecast and plan things I want to accomplish on those particular days. Having a plan helps to distract me and keep me from lounging and doing nothing.

      My children thought I was making up the fact that I am affected so by the lack of sunshine. That is until we moved to Arizona for 3 years. I felt so good for so long then nearly a year after moving they had a week of no sunshine. After a couple of days my son remarked that now he believed it as I wasn’t the same person. I knew things were off, but didn’t put it together until that moment.

  3. I had a room with full spectrum lights in the ceiling in my home in the mountains. Now I use a light-box my son got me for my birthday. As much as I hate to use the extra electricity, I need lots of light in the fall and winter months to just keep moving. The Pacific NW isn’t the best place for me but I’m managing. I’m solar powered so the lack of sun means a lot does not get done. Meds are not the way I want to go though I did for a time. Great information.

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