Skip to main content

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Real Thing?

Greetings from the surface of Hoth....I mean Chicago.  We've been busy here this winter breaking records for most days at or below zero degrees (26) and accumulating over 70 inches of snow.  After the 2 previous years being incredibly mild with low snowfalls, this winter was enough to drive the heartiest Chicagoan into a state of partial hibernation.  

How I've been commuting to work.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) came into the fray in 1984 as a marked change in mood related to seasonal changes, usually associated with winter but not always.  In the most recent iteration of the psychiatric diagnostic manual, DSM-5, SAD is no longer its own diagnosis but has become a qualifier for another mood disorder.  So now anxiety or depression can have a "with seasonal pattern" description.  

Some skepticism exists around the idea of seasonal changes in mood being classified as a disorder, and there are concerns that people will seek unnecessary treatments.  However, SAD can be severe, even leading to suicidal feelings and hospitalizations.  Symptoms include low mood, lack of energy, sleeping too much, social withdrawal, nausea, and overeating in the winter to increased anxiety and irritability, even manic symptoms, in the summer. Symptoms are caused by disruptions to circadian rhythm and/or changes to certain chemicals in the brain like serotonin and melatonin.  So what are the stats?
  • Rates of SAD vary depending on geography, with up to 10% of people in Alaska or New Hampshire but only 1.5% of people in Florida reporting symptoms.
  • Up to 14% of the US population experiences "subsyndromal" SAD, where the symptoms aren't severe enough to significantly affect the person's ability to function.
  • Women are four times more likely to be affected than men.
  • The average age for SAD to start is 23 years old.
  • SAD symptoms usually start around September and continue through March.
  • SAD tends to run in families.
So how is it treated?  The good news is bright light treatment is very effective.  The bad news is up to 69% of people report it to be inconvenient and struggle with doing it consistently.  The ideal light box contains white or green light and the person should sit a few feet in front of it (but not stare at it) for 30-60 minutes a day.  Other non-drug treatments that help are dawn simulators, which light up a person's bedroom gradually over an hour or so, and changing the ionization of the person's bedroom air.  A simple treatment is to simply spend more time outside on sunny days, fully recognizing that mother nature may not cooperate with this one.  These treatments should be given sufficient time to work before giving up on them - around 3 to 4 weeks.

How has your winter been in your neck of the woods?  Has it affected your mood?  Remember, only 3 months until summer!


Popular posts from this blog

The Long Shot

I don't even know where to begin as my head is still spinning with the news I received today.  So I'm just going to put it out into the ether:

Entyvio (vedolizumab), which I started for my Crohn's disease about 6 months ago, did what no other approach has:  cleared my eosinophilic esophagitis. 

But wait, isn't Entyvio a drug for inflammatory bowel disease?  Yes.

Is Eosinophilic Esophagitis a type of inflammatory bowel disease?  Nope.

Are IBD and EoE related at all?  As far as we know today, no.  There are very few overlapping cases.

So WTF happened?

Without getting into the biomechanics of a drug that's way over my pay grade in medical understanding, my gastroenterologist had a theory that the way Entyvio works would block the cascade of eosinophils (a part of your immune system, a type of white blood cell) through it's magical way of selectively keeping my immune system from attacking my digestive tract.

She was fucking right.

Since being diagnosed with EoE in ear…

Bubbles

I've been thinking a lot about how we live in an era of infinite access to infinite information (thanks, internet tubes!) yet we still fall into many of the well-established psychological laws, if we can call them that, of human behavior.  Don't worry, this isn't going to be some drawn out post on social psychology. Wikipedia is great for that.

I want to talk about bubbles.  Information bubbles, that is. And how each one of us lives in one to some extent, no matter how educated or enlightened we see ourselves to be. And even if we know we live in said bubble, it takes being shown information that directly conflicts with how you think things are, or should be, and the result is you feel kinda ew - the technical term for "ew" being cognitive dissonance.

I live in a bubble.

In my bubble is the world of academic medicine, academic health psychology, and a circle of psychologists dedicated to people living with chronic digestive illness.  I live in Chicago, a major me…

Everyone Can Fall Down the Rabbit Hole

A few months ago my 3 year old son uttered the words, "I hate you, mommy."  It was after I yelled at him for doing something wrong, which I've long forgotten what exactly the source of our exchange was. But I certainly can remember those words. I can hear them in my head if my brain decides, at random moments, to replay them.

My intellectual, clinical psychologist brain can explain this for days. He's 3, he doesn't know what he's saying, he learned the word hate somewhere else, presumably at preschool, as I discourage its free use in our house. He's using it to express his anger not his true feelings toward me because once he self-regulates (psychobabble for calms the F down) he tells me he loves me.  Blah blah blah.

Regardless of all that knowledge and shit I have from too much education, those words destroy me emotionally.  Maybe they hit me harder because of my profession because my head goes to all the subsequent pathology he'll surely go on to de…