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Winter blues setting in?

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 1:03 p.m. CST

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DeKALB – Myke Wilson suffers from many of the classic symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

“Every time this time of year I will become depressed and not feel motivated to get up and start the day,” said Wilson, a sophomore studying film/media studies at Northern Illinois University. “Just recently I started having a hard time getting out of bed and the thoughts of just skipping class enter my mind.”

SAD is a low level of depression that occurs each year at the same time, usually starting in fall or winter and ending in spring or early summer, according to Ben Gordon Center. The mood disorder is often attributed to the lack of light during the colder months of the year. SAD is a diagnosable and treatable disorder.

“It’s very common, unfortunately, especially this time of year,” said Fran Tierney, psychotherapist and manager of special programs at Ben Gordon Center.

Tierney said that SAD affects 4 to 6 percent of the population, and it affects women more than men. Symptoms can range from fatigue to serious depression and can vary from day to day and person to person. SAD can sometimes lead to serious depression.

“If symptoms persist or if symptoms get worse and the person is feeling more isolated, more depressed or more anxious, then it is time to seek help,” Tierney said.

Symptoms can often be minimized by getting enough sleep, eating a proper diet and getting regular exercise, Tierney said. Some SAD sufferers find relief with light therapy, in which patients sit in front of bright lights with a specific color spectrum for 30 minutes each morning.

Almost half of SAD sufferers do not find relief from light therapy alone. In more intense cases Ben Gordon Center recommends talk therapy and, in severe cases, medication.

Ben Gordon Center offers free, anonymous online mental health self-assessments on its website at www.bengordoncenter.org. To meet with one of the center’s experts call 815-756-4875.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Symptoms of SAD tend to occur in the fall or winter months and get better or go away in the summer. Symptoms include:

• Sad, anxious, hopeless, guilty or “empty” feelings

• Irritability or restlessness

• Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy

• Fatigue or changes in sleep patterns

• Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

• Changes in weight

• Thoughts of death or suicide

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