By Kathy Hubbard
“I can hardly get up in the morning, all I want to do is sleep. And, I’m angry all the time, everyone irritates me. Besides that, I eat constantly. I’m no sooner done with breakfast, dishes still in the sink, and I’m looking for what to eat for lunch. I’ve put on six pounds since Christmas. That’s depressing!”
This is a snippet of a conversation I had recently with a woman I’ll call Amanda (only because I don’t know anyone with that name). Amanda said that nothing has interested her this winter. A huge movie buff, she’s seen none. She complained that she couldn’t concentrate. She admitted that she’d be happy if she died. That’s not only depressing it’s a significant sign of depression. I think Amanda suffers from SAD.
“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year,” Mayo Clinic explains. “If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.
“Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the ‘winter blues’ or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.”
The first step, they recommend, is to see a healthcare professional. We’re fortunate because we have two extraordinary clinicians at Bonner General Behavior with a third who will be here before the snow melts. Natasha M. Splaine-Talbott, MS, APRN, FPMHNP-BC (I’ll explain that alphabet soup in a minute) will join Drs. Wassif and Johnson in providing the best mental health care possible.
As for Splaine-Talbott’s qualifications, the MS is a master’s degree, APRN stands for advance practice registered nurse and the long one, FPMHNP-BC is family psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, board certified. Whew! What else do you want to know besides the fact that she will round out the staff by treating children, adolescents and adults with mental health concerns? She comes to us with an excellent work history.
The National Institute of Mental Health says that SAD is not considered a separate disorder. “It is a type of depression displaying a recurring seasonal pattern. To be diagnosed with SAD, people must meet full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons for at least two years. Seasonal depressions must be much more frequent than any non-seasonal depressions.”
“The strange thing is that I feel much better on days the sun comes out,” Amanda said. “I have energy, I feel cheerful, I’m not hungry! But, on these long grey days I feel like I’m living in a black and white movie, and those are usually dark and dreary, aren’t they?”
NIMH says that people at risk include being female (women are four times as likely to have SAD as men); living far from the equator (one percent of those who live in Florida compared to nine percent who live in Alaska); having depression or a family history of depression or bipolar disorder or being young.
“Younger adults have a higher risk of SAD than older adults. SAD has been reported even in children and teens,” NIMH says.
Why? NIMH gives us three possibilities. One is your body having trouble regulating one of the key neurotransmitters involved in mood, and that’s serotonin. The second thought is that people with SAD may overproduce the hormone melatonin. That would answer why Amanda just wants to sleep and feels lethargic.
The third idea is that people with SAD produce less Vitamin D. “Vitamin D is believed to play a role in serotonin activity. Vitamin D insufficiency may be associated with clinically significant depression symptoms,” NIMH says.
There are four major types of treatment for SAD: medication, light therapy, psychotherapy and vitamin D. Once you, or Amanda, have been diagnosed, the medico will recommend which treatment will be best for you. Remember that it may take a little patience to find the right combination to relieve your symptoms.
Bonner General Behavioral Health’s phone number is 208-265-1090 they are located at 606 N. Third Avenue Suite 102. If you’re feeling suicidal, go to the emergency department or call the suicide prevention hotline 800-273-8255.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at email@example.com.