The season of cheer is here and everyone is bursting at the seams with holiday spirit… but what if you aren’t? What if instead of feeling overjoyed at the prospect of fruitcake you are feeling less than cheery, more tired and a bit irritated? Does that make you a grinch? According to OCH psychologist Dr. Belk, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, and you aren’t the only one.
A few weeks ago, on the eve of setting our clocks back an hour, I remember eagerly anticipating an extra hour of sleep. But instead of waking up energized and fresh the next morning, I felt exhausted. After that, I remember the rest of the day being long and drawn out. By dinner it was dark and I felt like it was time to go back to bed again. Even though my clock said I had gained an hour I swore I had lost about ten.
It’s been a month since Daylight Savings, but I can’t say that I’ve adjusted quite yet. My wife seems to be having trouble adapting, too. She tends to sleep more than ever and complains of being tired. Even my children are grumpy because they can’t play outside and because of the lack of light. It’s so dark in fact; they have to use a flashlight to find their way home after getting off the school bus!
All in all, everyone just seems “SAD.”
SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a mood disorder with symptoms of depression brought on by less light. It occurs as a result of seasonal changes and the onset of winter. While setting the clock back doesn’t result in less light, it does bring awareness to the fact that the time of year has arrived when the light of day gets shorter.
Many of us have mild to moderate difficulty adjusting to winter and the time change, but this doesn’t mean that we have SAD. Symptoms to watch out for include: increased fatigue, sleep difficulties, sadness and/or suicidal ideation occurring during this time of year. These have the potential to be the result of SAD. It is important to note that individuals who suffer from SAD may require medical treatment and should talk to their doctor if they experience increasing symptoms of depression during this time of year.
There are treatments which can help those who suffer from SAD, including antidepressant medications. However, increasing your exposure to light can help combat SAD as well. If you don’t have SAD and are simply struggling with the holiday blues, don’t worry! The next time change isn’t far away. On that day, we can look forward to setting our clocks forward, losing an hour of sleep and feeling better.
Content provided by Dr. Stephen Belk, psychologist for Ozarks Community Hospital. Dr. Belk received his degree from Angelo State University, Forest Institute. He has offices at the OCH Christian County Clinic and Lawrence County Clinic in addition to Ozarks Community Hospital. To contact Dr. Belk, call (417) 875-4682.