March 14, 2013

You Know What it's Like to Have the "Winter Blues"?

A Seasonal Funk

A seasonal funk that seems like something you have to just tough out? I remember when I was a freshman at the University of Chicago, the sun didn't come out between October and April of the next year! Everything was gray. Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. For most people with SAD, symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping energy and causing moodiness. Then the symptoms go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer.

Symptoms include: hopelessness, anxiety loss of energy, heavy feeling in arms and legs, social withdrawal, oversleeping, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, appetite changes, carbohydrate craving, weight gain and difficulty concentrating.

The Specific Causes are Still Unknown

While the specific cause is unknown, genetics, age, and the body's natural chemical makeup all play a role in developing the condition. Specific factors include the body's circadium rhythm (sleep/wake cycle), reduced serotonin levels due to reduced sunlight, and changed melatonin levels. All these factors may lead to feelings of depression.

When to see a doctor: while it's normal to have "down days", if the feeling persists for days at a time, getting motivated is difficult, sleep or eating patterns change, there are feelings of hopelessness, or you find yourself turning to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, see your doctor.
A thorough evaluation will rule out underlying physical conditions. Light therapy phototherapy is one of the first line treatments for SAD.  By sitting a few feet from and being exposed to a specialized bright light that mimics outdoor light, there is a change in brain chemicals linked to mood.  It generally starts working in two to four days and causes few side effects, and is effective for most people in relieving seasonal effective disorder symptoms.

Robert G. Tupac, DDS, FACP, Inc., Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics (661) 325-1275 | 5060 California Ave., #170, Bakersfield, CA 93309

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