This Winter Solstice lets consider SAD

Last night was the longest night of the year, today marks the returning of the light as the days become longer. For some last night was a holy day, for others it is just a mark on their calendars, an astronomic transit station.  Most of us celebrate seasonal holidays this month, many will be tracking Santa’s rapid arc around the globe tomorrow night, many others will have already celebrated 8 days of Hanukkah. For many the month of December marks a time of joy and good cheer, celebrations, and winding down of the year—however for many people here in the Pacific North West it is the time of the year where they live with SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I have a number of friends, and clients who suffer with it, and a lot of experience with the hardship of managing the emotional pain and social costs it places on them.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder

According to the professional journal ‘Abnormal Psychology’ it has been established that almost 9% of the us population, however subsyndromal SAD was noted in nearly 25% of participants in the reasearch group.  It is most commonly presented in northern latitudes such as Washington State, Canada, and Alaska, due to the longer periods of darkness and the greater periods of heavy overcast days.

Currently medical research indicates that these annual mood destabilizations are primarily related to natural light exposure, often made more prevalent due to the accompanying drop in Vitamin D.  Medical science has begun to identify the disorder as “a neurochemical imbalance primarily affecting the body’s hypothalamus gland triggered by a shortening of daylight and a lack of sunshine.

The signs of SAD include a marked increase in tension, irritability, and a decrease in energy (often a desire to oversleep,) that is usually accompanied by feelings of depression or melancholy.  Often a lack of libido, or an aversion to social interaction are also felt.

While the majority of people who experience SAD suffer during the winter months, others experience these symptoms during the height of summer, leading to the theory that it may be less a condition of lacking light, and more one of balanced cycles of day and night.

What can we do about Seasonal Affective Disorder.

SAD-SnowmanTreatments for classic (winter-based) SAD include counseling, light-therapy, diet and supplementation and in severe cases medication.  A therapist who is well versed in the condition and works with the diversity of medical support to assess and address all of the approaches in a coordinated and systemic approach is often your best ally in managing SAD.

While it is easy to think of the Solstice ad the darkest night of the year, if you or those you love are affected by the ‘Winter Blues’ remember—the solstice marks the end of the darkening days, and the rebirth of light as we move into spring. The seasonal changes in sunlight are unavoidable, but luckily, suffering isn’t.

  • Are you not feeling yourself this winter, or most winters?
  • Did you recently move to the Pacific North West, and find your mood is suffering at this time of year?
  • Are you having difficulty sleeping, or getting out of bed?
  • Is your desire for sex, intimacy or social contact less then usual?

If so you might be affected by the lack of light, and it’s worth speaking to a counselor about it to find out more.  If you do not have a counselor or mental health professional I would be happy to help you, make an appointment today.