Recognizing and Caring for Seasonal Affective Disorder
As we settle into the stillness of winter with a soft blanket of snow covering the ground, it’s natural to feel more removed from things you may enjoy. But coinciding with the loss of daylight, feeling down may be a sign of seasonal affective disorder.
When depressive symptoms happen during the same time every year, this may be the hallmarks of SAD. These symptoms may peak in winter but can also occur when changing to summer daylight hours. Kylie Duby, a clinical supervisor for behavioral health consultants at Southcentral Foundation, provided several symptoms to note when considering reaching out for help.
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Little motivation to do things you usually enjoy
- Feeling down about yourself or like you’re not good enough
- Poor concentration or ability to focus on things
- Appetite changes; eating too much or too little
- Increase in unsafe coping skills — drinking or drug misuse
- Increase in thoughts of suicide or self-harm
When experiencing four or more of these symptoms — or feeling like your life is adversely affected by any symptom — reach out to your primary care provider or SCF Behavioral Health for an evaluation. Integrated care teams are available to assist you in developing a treatment plan to best suit your needs, including referral to a BHC, if necessary. In addition to formal, personalized care, SCF provides opportunities to connect with other customer-owners to develop healthy relationships.
“There are open learning circles hosted by Family Wellness Warriors,” Duby said. “They don’t talk specifically about depression, but they have cultural groups, which can be a good resource to get out of the house and feel connected to other people.”
Self-care, including a consistent routine of exercise and healthy eating can also help.
If you are not able to make time to go outside during the short winter days, a SAD light may provide additional ultraviolet light coverage and reduce those feelings. Talk to your provider for recommendations on how an ultraviolet light might be helpful.
Up to 10% of Alaskans experience SAD, according to a 2006 study by the University of Alaska Fairbanks. You are not alone if you feel depressed this winter; SCF is here for your wellness journey at any stage.