When winter’s cold invades Salem County, and the sun seems to hide for days, some may experience a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder.
“While this type of blue feeling is considered typical by societal norms, some may experience extreme mood changes that affect how they think and handle daily activities,” said Behavioral Health Director Catherine Meliniotis, RN. “SAD is related to changes in seasons. Symptoms can begin as early as fall and last into the spring.”
Reduced levels of sunlight lead to a drop in serotonin — a neurotransmitter that affects mood. Lower levels of serotonin can trigger depression.
“While the exact cause of SAD is still a mystery, it’s suspected that the lower serotonin level is most likely the culprit,” Meliniotis said. “Serotonin also works along with melatonin, the hormone for maintaining a healthy sleep/wake cycle. Deficits in these, in addition to a lack of Vitamin D — which is found in sunlight — can cause changes in mood, sleep and behavior.”
SAD symptoms can include:
- Feeling listless, sad or down most of the day nearly every day
- No interest in enjoyable activities
- Low energy or feeling sluggish
- Overeating and craving carbohydrates
- Difficulty concentrating
- Hopeless, worthless or guilty feelings
- Suicidal thoughts
While there’s no known cure for SAD, there are steps to prevent severe symptoms.
“Light therapy, psychotherapy and medication can all be used as a treatment for SAD, but it’s always best to discuss how you are feeling with your primary care physician,” said Meliniotis. “Be sure to eat a balanced diet, exercise and get outside when you can, even if it’s cloudy.”
Everyone has a down day or two. However, make an appointment with your primary care physician if you feel depressed for several days in a row. Call Pennsville Family Care at 856-678-9002, Swedesboro Primary Care at 856-832-4359 or Woodstown Primary Care at 856-624-4319. For a complete list of primary care physicians, visit www.smc.health and click on Physician Directory.
If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text “HELLO” to the Crisis Line, 741741. Visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org to use the Lifeline Chat or to get more information.