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Winter Blues: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Winter Blues: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Lots of people experience a downswing in mood during the often dark and gloomy winter months, according to the Cleveland Clinic between 10 and 20 percent of Americans feel a bit bummed during these colder months. But for some, winter can bring a more serious disorder, seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Dr. Jake Brown, D.C., former Chiropractic Director of Chiro One Wellness Center of Naperville North, has had patients who are affected by SAD and has some advice to share on decreasing some of the symptoms people experience.

Symptoms of SAD

SAD in the U.S.

People who have SAD experience a significant change in mood at the beginning of winter and then again at the beginning of spring. While the exact number is not known, it’s estimated that about 4 to 6 percent of the U.S. population has SAD, which is between 12 and 20 million Americans. Most of those affected are between their 20s and 40s and around 75 percent are women.

Symptoms of SAD

There is a wide range of symptoms seen with SAD and many are the same as depression. “Symptoms usually manifest in malaise (discomfort), moodiness, stress, anxiety and feeling “overwhelmed,” Dr. Jake explains. Other symptoms may include a decrease in energy and the desire to be social, an increase in eating and sleeping, difficultly concentrating or feelings of hopelessness.

Interestingly, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that many people affected by SAD had a misperception about how much sleep they were getting. While they were spending more time in bed, many were not sleeping soundly and some experienced insomnia.

A Patient Story

Dr. Jake has seen positive results in some of his patients and one patient sticks in his mind in particular, “A middle-aged patient of mine had been treated for SAD symptoms by a psychiatrist and was on medication and using talk therapy. He told me he was feeling very hopeless and depressed, and even spoke of suicide during his initial consultation,” Dr. Jake recounts.

“He began chiropractic care for musculoskeletal reasons, however, I also worked with him on his diet and exercise, and over a period of time he started seeing positive results. Long story short, he is a completely different person now than he was a year ago. His mood and overall health has improved drastically, his relationships are better, and his energy and will to improve keeps getting stronger.”

Dr. Jake isn’t alone is his experience with this patient, a case report published in Clinical Chiropractic presented similar results in a patient who was being treated for low back pain. This patient experienced a significant improvement in her depressive symptoms, similar to those associated with SAD, while under chiropractic care.

Dr. Jake’s Recommendations

“One of the most important things is awareness,” says Dr. Jake. “During the winter months there is less exposure to sunlight, which decreases your vitamin D production. Knowing when to start supplementing vitamin D in your diet is important.” Dr. Jake also advises that SAD sufferers keep up exercise and manage stress through meditation. He also recommends trying chiropractic, “The benefits of chiropractic may be direct or indirect, but it has been shown to cause an endorphin release in the body, which can significantly boost your mood.”

If you are suffering from severe depression or feel suicidal, please reach out to a medical professional immediately.