Healthy U

Healthy U: How to treat the ‘winter blues’

Healthy U
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February 07 2021 06:00 pm

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Depression can come in many forms, but there’s one type that occurs more often than most this time of year.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), commonly called seasonal depression or simply the “winter blues” affects up to 3% of the world’s population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Twenty-five percent of those struggling with other disorders are also affected by the “blues.”

“Seasonal depression or season affective disorder could happen in the context of other mental illnesses so, for instance, there is a seasonal depression pattern that might happen during the course of bipolar disorder,” says Dr. Yahia Homsi with the WVU Physicians of Charleston.

Seasonal depression is brought on by the lack of sunlight and Vitamin D and rears its ugly head as the days grow shorter.

Our brains have light receptors that transmit to our mood sensors and when that light stimulation isn’t there, our moods can change, ultimately making us feel sad, tired and unmotivated.

These feelings usually subside when the days grow longer, but there is one FDA approved treatment on the market to get you through the winter months.

“Usually what we tell people is to use this lightbox for about 20 to 30 minutes in the morning and do not look directly into the lightbox but make sure it’s back there in the peripherals while you’re drinking your coffee or reading your newspaper,” remarks Dr. Homsi.

FDA approved light boxes can be found for a relatively inexpensive price and come highly recommended by local psychiatrists.

Other forms of treatment include taking vitamin D supplements, eating a well-balanced diet and regularly exercising. If this doesn’t work, it’s best to see your doctor.

If left untreated, seasonal depression can impact your relationships, work performance and even physical appearance.

“I think overall if people notice that they are struggling more with depression, especially during this time, it’s both dark and we’re required to socially distance and be safe, then it’s probably best to seek help sooner,” comments Dr. Homsi.

Remember – you don’t have to suffer alone until the sun returns.

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