Winters in Wallowa County can be harsh, and while there are plenty of activities that allow residents to stay active in the winter, it can still be hard on mental health. Many people will brush off these feelings as just the “winter blues” and tough it out until the days start getting longer and the sun starts shining a little brighter; however, in some cases, these mood changes are more serious and can be symptoms of depression. Season Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. Most people experience SAD in the fall and winter months. This is known as winter-pattern SAD. While much less common, some people experience depressive episodes during the spring and summer months; this is called summer-pattern SAD.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include;
- Feeling sad, down, or hopeless more of the day
- Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyed
- Feeling sluggish or having low energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Appetite changes, overeating, and weight gain
Millions of American’s suffer from SAD, and it often occurs more in women than in men. People living in areas that experience shorter daylight hours in the winter (like Wallowa County) are much more likely to experience SAD. Also, people who have Bipolar Disorder or experience depression year-round are at increased risk of seasonal affective disorder. Other risks include having blood relatives that have SAD or another form of depression.
While scientists do not fully understand what causes SAD, research indicates that people who experience SAD may have reduced activity levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter). Serotonin is what helps regulate mood. Sunlight also helps maintain serotonin levels. Other studies suggest that people with SAD produce too much melatonin (a sleep hormone). Overproduction of this hormone can cause excessive sleepiness. Changes in serotonin and melatonin cause disrupt a body’s normal rhythm, leading to sleep, mood, and behavior changes.
There are treatments available that can help people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. These treatments include;
- Light Therapy
- Antidepressant medications
- Vitamin D
Wallowa Memorial Medical Clinic has two full-time Behavioral Health Therapists, Dodie Beck, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and Erica Gilliland, Qualified Mental Health Professional. If you or a loved one notices any symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, please call and schedule an appointment with Dodie or Erica at 541-426-7900.
If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line (HELLO to 741741).