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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Officially, winter in Oregon lasts from November to March. However, anyone who’s lived here for a few years knows that it’s often raining or overcast from Halloween to Memorial Day.



While our climate gives us lush, verdant spring months, we must endure the dark and rainy winter ones to get them. Shorter days — and gray ones in between — can mean that as Oregonians, we are in the proverbial dark days of winter for a seemingly longer period of time than other parts of the country (or even the state.)


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs only during the fall and winter months. It’s believed to be caused by the body’s response to less sun-light and a seasonal increase in the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us sleep. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are particularly vulnerable.


People affected by SAD may produce more melatonin and less serotonin than others, which results in temporary changes in mood, anxiety and low energy. Children and adults with SAD may sleep more than usual, be more reclusive and have difficulty concentrating. These symptoms can be troublesome at school or in the workplace, but can usually be easily treated.


If you suspect a family member has SAD, first check with their doctor. And for good measure, there are things that the whole family can do to lift the collective mood, SAD or not:

  • Get regular exposure to Oregon sunshine (even the rainy kind!)

  • Speak with your healthcare provider about adding Vitamin D supplements to your routine.

  • Try implementing a light therapy lamp that simulates daylight into your daily routine. Ask your healthcare professional where to start.

  • Encourage all family members to regularly communicate their feelings. This can be to you, another trusted adult or a professional.

If you suspect that you or a family member has symptoms of depression that are not merely seasonal, or that do not respond to self-help, talk to a professional. There may be other conditions to be addressed.


 

Brought to you by: santiamhospital.org








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