Everyone who lives in Northwest Ohio expects winter to include cold weather, icy roads, and the occasional blizzard.
What most residents don’t expect is a depression they just can’t shake.
Allen Rutter, executive director at Shalom Counseling & Mediation Center, said, “It’s not uncommon to feel blue this time of year.
“Many people experience what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons.
Most who experience SAD have symptoms that begin in the fall and continue through the winter months.
“This disorder is largely due to shorter days and less sunshine,” Rutter said.
“Those of us who live in Northwest Ohio have more cloudy days than other parts of the country, so it is a very common thing.”
Some symptoms of SAD include feeling depressed most of the day nearly every day, having low energy, experiencing changes in appetite or weight, having difficulty concentrating, and having frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
Other symptoms are losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, feeling sluggish or agitated, and feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty.
Serious, But Treatable
“I think the most important thing to understand is that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a serious form of depression that is treatable,” said Stefanie Rockey, clinical therapist at Shalom.
“The ‘winter blues’ can be something most of us experience, since there is less sunlight in the winter.
“However, Seasonal Affective Disorder tends to begin and end about the same time every year and can range from mild to severe.”
Rockey and Rutter recommend seeking help when depression seems to be every day or nearly every day.
“If one is experiencing SAD, they may want to seek treatment from a professional,” Rutter said. “It isn’t something to just ‘tough it out.’”
Rutter said that, while there are many good, valid reasons for experiencing a sense of sadness– loss of a loved one, a good friend, a job, or a pet; financial stress; or even the letdown from holiday celebrations– there are some key questions that should be looked into.
“The thing to ask is, does this happen each year? Have I been feeling this way for more than a month or six weeks?” Rutter said.
“Any time a person experiences an extended period marked by loss of energy or changes in mood and behavior, they should see their doctor or a therapist.
“Seeking help earlier rather than late is always wise.”
In addition to seeking help, Rutter also recommends a few coping mechanisms, including eating well and paying attention to your diet.
Exercise, such as a daily walk, is a good coping mechanism, along with getting adequate sleep and spending time in nature.
He also recommends talking to family or friends about what you’re going through, and eliminating alcohol.
Another suggestion: begin a mood journal, noting your feelings, food intake, sleep patterns, daily experiences, habits, and activities.
He also recommends staying engaged in things that bring you joy, or trying something new. Take a painting class or join a book club, for example.
“Depression isn’t a weakness, and you can’t simply ‘snap out of it,’” Rutter said.
“Depression may require long-term treatment, but people should not get discouraged. It is treatable.”
If you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of depression, contact your primary care physician or a mental health professional.
Symptoms Of Seasonal Affective Disorder include
Feeling depressed most of the day nearly every day
Having low energy
Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
Having difficulty concentrating
Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
Feeling sluggish or agitated
Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty.