Most of my readers know that I have bipolar disorder. I also deal with depression, anxiety and some OCD tendencies. In the last month or so I have also had a case of the winter blues. SAD is Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can be diagnosed after 3 consecutive winters. I have had it for 5 years while living in Flagstaff. It was very mild in Phoenix for obvious reasons but it was still there lingering in the background. I borrowed this information from Mental Health America.
A diagnosis of SAD can be made after three consecutive winters of the following symptoms if they are also followed by complete remission of symptoms in the spring and summer months:
- Depression: misery, guilt, loss of self-esteem, hopelessness, despair, and apathy
- Anxiety: tension and inability to tolerate stress
- Mood changes: extremes of mood and, in some, periods of mania in spring and summer
- Sleep problems: desire to oversleep and difficulty staying awake or, sometimes, disturbed sleep and early morning waking
- Lethargy: feeling of fatigue and inability to carry out normal routine
- Overeating: craving for starchy and sweet foods resulting in weight gain
- Social problems: irritability and desire to avoid social contact
My migraines are better managed using blackout curtains. It keeps the house dark but with even shorter days in the winter months, I increase my symptoms of SAD. What I didn't know is that melatonin production is increased in the dark. This causes me to sleep more which keeps me in my dark bedroom which increases my melatonin. Great little circle I have going, huh?
The worst symptoms for me is the difficulty in staying awake. I have to fight to keep my eyes open. I also overeat constantly, even when I am not hungry at all. It is also hard for me to be social during these months. I can be myself online but I don't want to go out and do anything. Well I want to, but I can't. I just have no wanting or motivation.
A friend posted this video link on my facebook yesterday. It was the perfect blend of calming words and haunting music.
Luckily I have some great friends that will push me to get out of the house. Plus I drive the boys to school each day so I have to get out of bed. Sometimes I don't change out of my pajamas though :) Have you dealt with SAD? What are your tips for beating the winter blues?