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Seasonal Depression

By Dan Ridley

As we announced last week, we are beginning a series of articles focused on employee wellness. I have an extensive background in Counseling Psychology. I want to use these articles and podcasts to share information on dealing with depression, anxiety, addiction, and much more. My hope is that this information might be useful to you or that you might be able to share it with a co-worker or family member close to you.

I thought it would be timely to begin by discussing seasonal depression. For many, the holidays are the most enjoyable time of the year. However, for others, it is a time of great sadness, anxiety, and depression. If you are blessed and enjoy this time of year, know there is probably someone close to you that is struggling. As you read this article, I hope that you will think about who this might be useful to.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of mild to moderate depression in the fall or winter months which typically fades in the spring. The term “seasonal affective disorder” was coined in the 1980’s by Norman Rosenthal, a psychiatrist and research scientist who studied mood and biological rhythm disorders at the National Institute of Mental Health. In his best-selling book Winter Blues, he revealed his own struggle with SAD and pointed to light deprivation as a major cause. By the 1990’s the concept of seasonal depression was generally accepted by most Americans.

Common symptoms of SAD include fatigue, even with too much sleep, and weight gain associated with overeating and carbohydrate cravings. SAD symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include many symptoms similar to major depression, such as:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed

  • Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates

  • Change in sleep; usually sleeping too much

  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours

  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable to others)

  • Feeling worthless or guilty

  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions

  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

SAD may begin at any age, but it typically starts when a person is between ages 18 and 30. If you or someone you know fits these criteria then help is available. Next week we will discuss new and innovative treatment options that are available for seasonal affective disorder.

Remember that Mid South has an Employee Assistance Program available to all covered Mid South team members. The program offers professional mental health services and is as close as your phone.

Life Assistance Number

1-800-538-3543

Life Assistance Program –24/7 support

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