We all need some sun to absorb vitamin D production, and lack of the vitamin has been proven to negatively affect individuals as it relates to depression and a healthy immune system.
The sudden change in season can actually cause one type of depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which worsens during the winter months and improves with the start of spring.
Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health identified patients who experienced regular fall/winter depression. Also known as seasonal adjustment disorder, the condition affects about 10 percent of people in nontropical climates and about 20 percent report a milder form of depression.
“One of the most prevalent symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder is disabling fatigue,” said Dr. Saisha Gupta, chairwoman of psychiatry for Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness.
“A sudden loss of energy, which can be both mental and physical, makes activities that were once fun and easy completely exhausting,” she said. “Another common symptom is alienating one’s self from social activities, hobbies or people that have played a large part in the individual’s personal life.”
Other Symptoms of SAD:
• Disheartened and Sad: An otherwise happy-go-lucky person may experience severe blues such as feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and a bleak outlook on the future.
• Lack of Focus: This includes problems with remembering and concentrating. A lack of focus can affect someone’s personal and professional life due to a severe inability to make simple decisions.
• Irritability: Many people, who experience SAD, complain of being in tears and the next minute, they are overcome with anger. Agitation and restlessness is also common, but the person does not understand why or what to do.
• Other symptoms include physical pain, difficulty sleeping, a big change in weight or appetite, recklessness and anxiety.
Light therapy is a popular option in treating SAD. Special lamps that mimic natural sunlight have shown promising results in reducing or eliminating the symptoms of this disorder.
“If you are experiencing these symptoms during other times of the year, you may be suffering from depression, a real medical and treatable illness. If that is the case, I suggest that you visit your primary care physician as soon as possible,” Gupta said.
• Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness (auntmarthas.org/) is a private, not-for-profit agency providing coordinated health care and social services for family members of all ages in underserved communities across Illinois. The agency serves more than 50,000 children and adults annually.