Michelle Rupp: We are in the time of year where it’s gray, it’s dreary. It’s a good day when we see the sunshine, but those days are kind of few and far between right now. Seasonal Affective Disorder. I would think this is the time of year, boy, it is full throttle for individuals who suffer from that. Let’s first talk a little bit about what that is.
Chad Rodgers: Yeah, so we’re headed into what people called the winter blues, you know, so in January is actually known as the saddest month of the year. I mean we’ve had this whole season in November and December with the holidays and seeing family and friends and going to things. And in January, the days are the shortest. You know, it gets dark early; the sun doesn’t come up until later; it’s cold. So, you want to stay inside. A lot more cloudy, gloomy, rainy days in January and even into February.
So, people don’t know exactly what causes seasonal affective disorder. There’s definitely a lot of thoughts about it. The most common one is sunlight, that we kind of just lose our natural biorhythms, our natural rhythms. We’re not getting as much light as we’re used to and of course, you know, that stimulates a lot of other hormones in our body that kind of make us feel good and stuff like that. So, people commonly think about Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter. There are people who also have Seasonal Affective Disorder in the spring or in the summer, which people don’t talk about quite as often, but it’s something that’s seasonal. So, you may already have some depression or some sort of mood disturbance. Maybe you’re having trouble sleeping or just feeling sad or lonely. But it only lasts for a couple of weeks to months and then during the rest of the year you feel fine. So that’s what you commonly see with Seasonal Affective Disorder. And it’s fairly common. You kind of see it run in close family members. Many times, people, if they have another family member who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, if you already have a mood disorder and when I talk about mood disorders, things like depression and anxiety. Those things all seem to get worse.
MR: Can anyone develop this or is it the genetic?
CR: Yeah, anybody can develop this at any time. And you know, it tends to be very seasonal, very pattern-ish. Sometimes people will just kind of have maybe a bad year, maybe it will be worse some years than other years. But really all of us are vulnerable to getting it. And, you know, it’s not anything that you’re doing wrong necessarily, it’s just, it’s getting dark. And you really in the furthest parts of the North and the furthest parts of the South in the world, you see a lot of seasonal effective disorder because the days are really, really short and the nights are really, really long.
MR: So, what can we do if we are suffering or if we suspect we might be?
CR: Right, so there’s a couple of easy things to do. Number one, make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, make sure you’re eating well, drinking plenty of water. And you know, we do occasionally have those great, beautiful sunny days even in January and February, so really trying to schedule time to get out and get into the natural son, because that really seems to be what helps. But wear your sunscreen. But you know, getting out and doing some exercise helps a lot and getting that sunlight.
You will see things called light boxes online and a lot of people will order those. So, when you first wake up in the morning, you do about 20 or 30 minutes of this white light. So, it sort of acts like natural light. Although the good thing about these boxes is they do filter out all the all the dangerous UV light. So, kind of to protect the eyes and to protect the skin. Sometimes what I’ve often seen, is people with seasonal affective disorder is they’ll go to the tanning bed in order to treat their seasonal affective order. And it does help warm you up, and it does give you some vitamin D, but it’s not good for your skin.
MR: That’s not necessarily the right choice either.
CR: Yea, not the right choice either. So, these light boxes are a much safer alternative for improving your mood and kind of getting the light that you need to kind of stimulate that. And I think the third thing is that sometimes, you know, we need to think about going on medication. So, there are medications that treat anxiety and depression that help increase those hormones in the brain that seem to decrease during the winter. And so, you want to talk to your mental health professional or your family doctor or whoever you sort of see to talk about that. Maybe you might want to go on something for a couple of months just to get you through those winter blues.