If you are a senior affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you can benefit from a range of treatment options that are effective once symptoms are detected early enough. The prevalence of SAD in the US ranges from 1% for those living in Florida to 9% in Alaska (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). Risk factors include being female (with women likely to be diagnosed with SAD four times more than men), family history of depression or bipolar disorder and residing far from the equator.
Differentiating Between Depression and SAD
It is important to point out the difference between normal depression and SAD. Depression, although not a part of normal aging can occur among the elderly due to different factors such as a medical condition, loss of a loved one, social isolation or being alone. SAD, on the other hand, as the name implies is seasonal in nature. It begins in late autumn and continues through winter.
Winter depression affects you in many ways. You become depressed, irritable, lethargic, sleep & eat more and adopt an even more sedentary lifestyle. When complications arise, you might even entertain thoughts of suicide and death frequently.
Persistent depression due to the winter season can impact your daily life. If not treated, it can result to social withdrawal, develop into anxiety & other mental issues and even substance abuse.
If you start to feel the symptoms of SAD, seek medical attention for proper diagnosis so you can tackle winter blues effectively. You doctor can prescribe antidepressants to combat depression, a condition believed to be caused by an imbalance in serotonin activity.
Another option is to recommend light therapy. As SAD is caused by a lack of light and vitamin D, using a light box to mimic natural sunlight can decrease the symptoms and increase energy levels. Taking supplements to boost vitamin D is also helpful and can make you feel better.
Counselling and psychotherapy are effective as well at relieving symptoms of depression caused by seasonal changes. It identifies negative behavior and replaces them with positive ones. Behavioral activation is also included where your counselor helps you identify activities that you like and give you pleasure both indoors and outdoors to better cope with winter.
Seeking support to beat winter depression is critical to help you through the condition and manage its symptoms. In addition, there are things that you can initiate such as increasing social activities, exercising, going out more often in daylight and eating & sleeping properly.
Written by: Lucy Wyndham