Is Seasonal Affective Disorder real?

Look out for the symptoms of this very serious emotional disorder

Opinion

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Patricia Johnson

Contributor

The weather outside is frightful. Sidewalks are littered with gray, slushy snow. The cold is bitter and comparable to needles slapping you in the face. The sun refuses to come out and when it does, it makes a very brief guest appearance, shattering any delusions of warmth.

Winter is hard. There's no other way to put it. I told myself the change in weather brings in new fashion, but reality is, I don't care. I'm a tomboy. I do however love boots, so I tried to deal by justifying that winter's the perfect reason to buy a new pair, or maybe three or four. But that only helps so much. Sometimes, when I think of how dreadfully long I'll have to endure the cold, I count and recount November, December and January, like the total will change or as if winter is exclusive to only these three months. As if.

The holidays are a nice distraction, but as soon as January hits, time seems to freeze and spring begins to sound like a childhood fairytale. To add to the gloominess, some people might suffer from vitamin D deficiency around this time, something that can add to feelings of low energy and motivation.

Many people I've spoken to agree that winter is yucky and annoying. And they all enthusiastically second my proclamation that all people affected by anything lower than 40-degree weather should be awarded beach houses, just for the winter, of course.

For some people, however, deprivation of sunlight and warmth is far more impactful than transforming into a whiner or conjuring up dreams of beach houses. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is not a fleeting feeling, and it's not just the tendency to want to eat a little more or stay under the covers a little longer. People who suffer from SAD have a change in overall mood, lose interest in things they used to enjoy and have trouble concentrating.

Loss of sunlight resulting in disruption of the body's biological rhythm might be to blame. Sometimes, people I've met who suffer from SAD minimize their symptoms. They think it's silly that they're having a hard time adapting to the change in seasons. But it's not their fault. It's depression, something that should never be ignored or minimized. Good news is there are treatments, including natural ones like light therapy, exercise programs and nutrition options.

Even though there are some winter enthusiasts out there, I believe many of us are on some spectrum of being annoyed with cold weather to becoming depressed by it. If you're seeing a pattern of mood symptoms returning every year, it may be time to speak to a therapist. Winter is hard and we don't have to pretend it's not. Believe me, I've tried.

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