Seasonal Affective Disorder – you CAN blame it on the weather


Here in the northeast, we are angry, we are bitter, we are tired and we are sick. And frankly, we are sick and tired of being bitter and angry. On Instagram, there is a hashtag #f%$@thiswinter and while I find that mildly disturbing, it actually made me feel good to see a picture of a bloody snowman being stabbed with a sword. Even, people who claim to love the winter are starting to lose it. When you live in the tristate area, part of the reason you love the winter is so you can play in the snow once or twice and look forward to the beautiful rebirth of spring. We had more than our fair share of snow and ice — even the kids are done with snowball fights — and spring is starting to look like last year’s winter. I am so exhausted I’ve done two pregnancy tests because other than when I had mono, it is the only other time I’ve felt this kind of fatigue. (Both were negative or I’d be writing this from an asylum.) I’ve considered a slew of chronic illnesses, but with my main symptoms being extreme moodiness and lack of patience, I think I may be SAD, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

How can you tell if you have SAD, for which there are treatments or therapies, or you are just really sick of being cooped up with your kids?

– SAD usually starts in the late fall with symptoms not clearing until spring or summer (check)

– Symptoms include:
decreased libido
oversleeping and fatigue
a heavy feeling in the arms and legs
social withdrawal
changes in your appetite
weight gain
difficulty concentrating

Uh oh! Depending on the day, I’m at least 5 for 10. In addition, women experience SAD more frequently than men, but men may have more severe symptoms. So … should I write myself a prescription?

When should you see your doctor?
– if your symptoms become severe, interfering with your daily activities and/or work
– if you are self-medicating with alcohol or drugs
– if your sleeping or eating patterns have changed
– if you are feeling hopeless or suicidal
– if you just can’t take it anymore

For more on Seasonal Affective Disorder, diagnosis and treatment, check out the Mayo Clinic’s website. 

Why do I bring this up now, just as we can start to see the promise of spring? A true diagnosis of SAD requires two years of symptoms. Take note of how you are feeling now and how you are feeling 4-6 weeks from now. If you currently have many of the above symptoms and they clear before summer, pay attention come autumn. If, as the days shorten, so does your love of life, you should take action before you suffer through another season of SAD. Speak with your doctor, there are treatments available.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.


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