Archive for November, 2009


The SAD time of year

2129252744_14946f56beIt’s that time of year, when the days get shorter and the amount of sunlight we are exposed to decreases dramatically. In some individuals who are predisposed to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) this corresponds to an increase in depressive symptoms. While the cause of this disorder is not fully understood, many believe that changes in our neurochemicals may be responsible: specifically changes in Melatonin levels. Melatonin is a chemical that is produced during the hours of darkness; it is involved with regulation of sleep, temperature, and release of other hormones. It is thought that individuals with SAD produce an excess of Melatonin that leads to depressive symptoms.

Symptoms of SAD can sometimes mimic hibernation: tendency to sleep more, eat more (especially cravings for high carbohydrate items), weight gain, irritability, fatigue, social withdrawal and isolation (in addition to other signs of depression: sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of interest and pleasure, and difficulty concentrating and focusing. SAD is more than the “winter blues” and requires a full diagnosis of Major Depression with the seasonal specifier for timing.

If you suspect that you might have SAD or Seasonal Depression, please see your doctor for full evaluation and discussion of treatment options. Many treatments are available and may include Light Therapy, medications, and psychotherapy. Light Therapy (with a specialized lamps using 10,000 Lux bulbs) should be initiated in early November and continued on a daily basis, for 30 minutes daily, until March or otherwise instructed by your healthcare professional. It’s not too late to address the cycle of moodiness and loss of motivation that may occur this time each year.

antidepressantsThe decision to seek treatment for any condition can be a difficult one.  The decision to seek treatment for depression and anxiety can be made significantly more difficult by current social stigmas and also by one’s interpretation of religious beliefs.  This question represents so many other questions that can become barriers to treatment: If I seek treatment, does it mean I don’t have enough faith in God’s healing power?  If I seek treatment, does it mean that there is something really wrong with me?  If I seek treatment and someone finds out, will they judge me in a negative manor?  I have lost count of how many believers have delayed or avoided treatment for these very reasons; not to mention how many stop treatment prematurely so they can “get back to thinking that there’s nothing wrong” with themselves.  These same people generally would not hesitate to seek treatment for high blood pressure or diabetes.

 

My response is this: Our bodies are temples that we are entrusted with caring for.  We are an incredible collection of cells, nerves, chemicals, and more that are continually changing in response to biologic, psychological, and social factors.  Sometimes our chemistry can become unbalanced necessitating the use of antidepressant medication to correct states of depression and anxiety when they cause dysfunction in our lives.  Depression and anxiety are not punishment; they are real medical conditions that can respond to specific treatments.  To not take the steps needed to maintain our bodies would be far more wrong and damaging; sometimes this might mean taking medications in addition to doing therapy and other activities.  Have faith that the God of the Universe is not limited in His capacity to heal: that healing may very well be accomplished through any variety of treatment modalities including medications. Find a physician, who understands your beliefs and listens to you, but don’t avoid or delay getting the help you need.