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Published: January, 2005; Vol 1, Num 8

 

When It's More than Just the Winter Blues

By Jamie Becker

While some people may welcome the winter and look forward to all that comes with it, winter can be a tough time of year, especially for Laborers.

It's the time of year when Laborers tend to work the fewest number of hours and bring in the least amount of money, yet expenses tend to be high. Many holidays come with budgets gone overboard, and heating, gas and electric bills are at their highest. Money spent on entertainment can increase because there are fewer outdoor activities to participate in and keep everyone busy.

These things by themselves can be enough to put anyone in a rut. Add in shorter days - less sunlight and more darkness - and this can be a very hard time of year.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that follows the seasons. The most common type of SAD is called winter depression. It usually begins in late fall or early winter and goes away by summer.

Facts About SAD

As many as six out of every 100 people in the United States may have winter depression. Another 10-20% may experience mild SAD.

Although some children and teenagers get SAD, it usually doesn't start in people younger than 20 years of age.

SAD is more common in northern geographic regions.

Common symptoms of winter depression include:

  • A change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • Weight gain
  • A heavy feeling in the arms or legs
  • A drop in energy level
  • Fatigue
  • A tendency to oversleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Increased sensitivity to social rejection
  • Avoidance of social situations

Treatment

Winter depression is likely caused by your body's reaction to a lack of sunlight. Light therapy is one option for treating winter depression.

It is important that someone who has SAD be diagnosed, not only in order to treat it but also to rule out other medical or situational conditions that can contribute to feeling sick and/or "blue."

If you or someone you know has symptoms of SAD, your Member Assistance Program (MAP) can help. A MAP counselor can provide free assistance and assess what may be causing your symptoms in order to address the problem or refer you to someone who can. If you don't have access to a MAP, consult your family physician.