While it is common to experience the “winter blues” as the days get shorter and temperatures get colder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of clinical depression that interferes with an individual’s ability to regulate mood and function during the winter months. SAD is due, at least in part, to changes in levels of serotonin, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter. As we spend less time in the sun during the winter months, levels of serotonin in the body can decrease. Decreased sunlight and longer periods of darkness can also affect sleep by throwing off your body’s internal clock and decreasing levels of melatonin, a sleep-regulating neurotransmitter.
SAD is diagnosed more commonly in women and individuals who live far from the equator. It is also more common in individuals with a personal or family history of depression or bipolar
disorder. A qualified psychiatric specialist must diagnose SAD. Symptoms of SAD include the following:
- Marked decrease in energy
- Loss of interest in activities that previously brought you pleasure
- Excessive sleep
- Weight gain and craving for high-carbohydrate foods
- Depressed mood
- Heightened feelings of emotional sensitivity, interpersonal difficulties, and irritability
If you experience several of these symptoms simultaneously in the wintertime, consult a psychiatrist or other mental health professional to determine whether you are suffering from SAD.
In addition to proper psychiatric care, physical therapy can have a beneficial impact for individuals with SAD. Exercise has been shown to have tremendous positive effects for individuals with SAD and other mood disorders. Exercise increases mood- and sleep- promoting neurotransmitters and can help to regulate chemical imbalances that result from changes in circadian rhythms and light exposure.
A physical therapist can assist in developing an exercise program that will improve an individual’s neurotransmitter production, thus alleviating symptoms of SAD. Physical therapy should always be used in conjunction with psychiatric care for individuals with SAD or any other mental health condition.
If you have been diagnosed with SAD and would like to learn more about how exercise and physical therapy can improve your condition, request an appointment with Freehold Physical Therapy today.