Now that the last present has been opened and the radio stations are no longer playing holiday music, are you feeling a bit humdrum? Post-holiday blues are a genuine condition, and the symptoms often mirror depression.
What’s causing your slump? For one, there’s cold, dark winter itself. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression directly related to a lack of sunlight. Other triggers may include financial stressors (credit card bills), guilt from overindulging during gatherings or underachieving exercise goals, or stress caused by increased family time, especially if drama or conflict occurred.
Persistent stress can increase blood pressure and heart rates, which could result in heart problems or stroke. Longer periods of stress can increase inflammation in the body, have effects on blood vessels and the heart, and decrease the body’s ability to fight infections and heal.
You might be suffering from SAD if you:
▪ Feel sad, grumpy, moody or anxious
▪ Have lost interest in your usual activities
▪ Are eating more and craving carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta
▪ Are gaining weight
▪ Sleep more but still feel tired
▪ Have trouble concentrating
Symptoms come and go about the same time each year. Most people with SAD start to have symptoms in September or October and feel better by April or May.
Anyone can get SAD, but it’s more common in women; people who live far from the equator, where winter daylight hours are short; and people between the ages of 15 and 55. The risk of getting SAD for the first time decreases as you age. People also are prone to SAD if they have a close relative who suffers from it.
It can be hard to tell the difference between SAD and other types of depression, because many of the symptoms are the same. To diagnose SAD, your doctor will ask if:
▪ You have been depressed during the same season and have gotten better when the seasons changed for at least two years in a row.
▪ You have symptoms that often occur with SAD, such as being very hungry (especially craving carbohydrates), gaining weight and sleeping more than usual.
▪ A close relative — a parent or sibling — has had SAD.
You may need to have blood tests to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.
Your doctor may also do a mental health assessment to get a better idea of how you feel and how well you are able to think, reason and remember.
Dr. Clark Lester is a psychiatrist who practices at Baptist Health Corbin.