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Don't confuse winter SADness with depression
Senior Moments
Rich DeLong is executive director of Station Exchange Senior Care. - photo by File photo

I absolutely love this time of year; not so much for the weather though as for the time I spend with family and friends during the holidays.

I also like the start of a new year because it makes me feel as though I have a fresh opportunity for beginnings.

This time of year, however, can be a roller coaster of emotions for seniors who either live alone or live with painful memories of loved ones now gone. And, although the winter weather in the South is not as severe as up North, colder days with less hours of sunlight can all add up to an unhappy New Year.

It is important, though, to be able to distinguish between bouts of winter depression, or what is commonly called, seasonal affective disorder, and clinical depression; as the treatment for either may differ from the other. Here are some things to consider.

Research into SAD is ongoing, but researchers have found that exposure to light can help individuals who suffer from this disorder. Places that receive little light such as Alaska have been shown to have higher rates of SAD.

If you are experiencing symptoms, plan a trip somewhere sunny to help get out of the rut. Alternatively, you can buy a lamp that emits full-spectrum light that mimics the sun’s rays, which have been shown to alleviate symptoms of SAD. However, nothing beats a cruise to the Bahamas this time of year.

Depression will continue if users do not seek treatment, but SAD is a problem that people experience on a temporary basis. While symptoms can be severe and disrupt an individual’s life, SAD typically affects a person during a particular time of year and passes when the next season begins.

With SAD you may feel tired but not depressed. Some people experience symptoms that closely mimic clinical depression, but others may feel tired and have lower energy levels than usual without experiencing other symptoms of depression. The lack of energy caused by SAD may affect an individual’s ability to carry out everyday activities.

One of the most prominent symptoms of seasonal affective disorder is irritability or oversensitivity. You may not associate your changes in mood with SAD, but if it is winter and you find yourself more irritable than normal and are having trouble getting along with people, it may be because of this disorder. Depression and SAD both cause mood changes, but seasonal affective disorder may cause one to lash out at others.

Remember that depression is persistent. SAD may affect users for days at a time, but the symptoms of depression will continue for months and years on end unless an individual seeks treatment.

You may not need to seek therapy for SAD, but if depression-like symptoms continue for more than a few weeks, it may be time to consider seeing a doctor. Talking with a doctor about depression can help you manage your symptoms; plus your physician may want to prescribe a medication which may also help.

If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or depression and want help, talk to your physician. Your doctor may want to refer you to a specialist. The first step to getting better is realizing you may need some help.

Here’s to your emotional wellness and many more happy new years, my friends!

Contact him at 912-531-7867 or email him at:

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