Uncategorized | December 28, 2017
Winter Blues. Cabin Fever. SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder has many names. Some people mistakenly write off SAD as a simple case of “climbing the walls,” but as a recognized type of clinical depression, SAD requires professional diagnosis and attention, as the Canadian Mental Health Association advises.
As days grow shorter, and daylight becomes scarce in late fall and winter, 4 to 6 percent of Canadians experience a form of depression called winter-onset Seasonal Affective Disorder *(SAD). Another 10 to 20 percent have milder cases.
How Common Is SAD?
Although SAD is more common among younger adults (75 percent of SAD patients are women, most in their 20s, 30s and 40s), it also affects seniors. And seniors diagnosed with other forms of depression may have symptoms aggravated by the isolating effect of forbidding winter weather. Treatment for SAD and other forms of depression is especially critical for older adults, who are at greater risk of suicide than the rest of the Canadian population, according to the Public Health Agency for Canada.
Signs Of Seasonal Affective Disorder
While Canadian seniors make up 13 percent of the population they account for 16 percent of all suicides—and white men over 85 are at six times greater risk of suicide than other population segments. Despite this, only 10 percent of seniors suffering from depression receive therapy.
Those with SAD exhibit many of the common signs of depression—sadness, anxiety, irritability, social withdrawal, loss of interest in normal activities, and inability to concentrate. Other symptoms of winter-onset SAD, which usually begin in October or November and subside in March or April, include:
Symptoms vary from one person to another as does the degree of depression—for most individuals, mild to moderate, and for a few, severe to the point of suicidal thoughts.
Winter-Onset SAD is more common at higher latitudes as it is closely associated with a decrease in daylight. It is thought that lessened exposure to sunlight alters the biological clock that regulates mood, sleep, and hormones. Another explanation for SAD is that the neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals that relay information between the nerves, may be altered in the brains of persons with SAD.
Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Light therapy, using a specially designed light box or light visor, is a common treatment for correcting the imbalances in persons with SAD. This therapy often is prescribed in combination with antidepressants and behavioral therapy.
Other means to help seniors elevate mood and fend off the effects of winter and depression include:
A Harvard University study found that therapies that incorporate activity for seniors have proven effective in treating depression. Studies also have shown the benefits of physical activity in treating depression.
*A much smaller portion of the population experiences SAD during hot, humid summer months. Fewer yet encounter SAD in both winter and summer.
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