SEASONAL EFFECTIVE DISORDER (SAD)
From: seniorhealth.com Wednesday 1/4/23
Seniors living in the northern states of America, where rain, snow, and fewer hours of daylight are all part of the winters may have negative effects on the psyche. A senior that experiences depression during the winter months but returns to normal when spring returns, may suffer from Seasonal Effective Disorder (SAD). It is common for people to be less energetic when it’s overcast and cold, but SAD is a real depression during the winter.
SAD is not different from a real depression, except for a set duration. Real depression is not related to a season of the year, but SAD may, in rare occasions, occur in other seasons.
The actual cause of SAD is not yet identified, but is believed to linked to the fewer hours of sunlight during the winter. Short days with clouds, rain or snow interfere with the body’s natural biorhythm known as the circadian rhythm. Serotonin is a brain hormone, that is vital in determining mood. When the circadian rhythm is disturbed the serotonin level drops, causing sadness and depression.
Another hormone that plays a role in SAD is melatonin. Melatonin regulates sleep. When darkness sets in the melatonin secretion increase, and the sleepy feeling follows. When the melatonin level is out of balance, sleep patterns are out of sync and our mood drops.
The elderly suffer a higher risk of SAD because they are less mobile, and have a lower tolerance to the cold. The two factors have a direct influence on the amount of time a senior spends in the daylight during the winter. The less sunlight that is absorbed the greater the odds of depression, especially if there is pre-existence for the condition. Many seniors take medications for chronic diseases, and there are indications that those prescriptions can play a role in SAD.
Medication is usually not mandatory for treatment of SAD, unless the senior’s depression limits the ability to function. Counseling and light-therapy are often easier approaches for dealing with SAD. Some doctors may recommend taking Vitamin D supplements to counter the loss of Vitamin D that is naturally supplied by sunlight.
The suggested advice of changes in the daily routine can help in coping with SAD, and they include;
- Daily walks in the outdoors (weather permitting)
- Opening up blinds and curtains allowing as much sunlight in as possible
- Exercise regularly, even if it’s indoors
- Finding suitable company and regularly participate in social activities
- Eat a healthy diet, vitamin deficiencies can be an underlying problem
- Spruce up your indoor environment, add winter plants, add brighter colors on the walls, and decorate to detract from the dullness outside.