Purpose Statement

This blog is intended to educate women on issues that affect women. Although we are all healthcare professionals, we are not here to give medical advice. Rather we hope this will encourage women knowing that help is available and give them the courage to seek help.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

YOU HAVE TO WORK TO TREAT THE BLUES

Masked behind the smiles and excitement of December holidays, many women - and men – and children - experience a transformation that makes them irritable, hungry, fatigued and despondent.  Brought on by changes in daylight, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a common occurrence in regions that have shorter days in winter and distinct seasons.
While SAD is generally thought of as an adult disorder, the American Journal of Psychiatry reports that children as young as nine may exhibit symptoms.  The cause, according to neuro-scientists, is thought to be changes in the body’s production of serotonin and melanin.

Women who have chronic pain syndrome often are sad (dysphoria) and find little pleasure in life (anhedonia).  As the days grow shorter and light grows weaker, SAD may occur, and it is often said that the individual has “double depression.”

Norman Rosenthal, the Maryland psychiatrist who in the 1980’s first described the cluster of symptoms now called SAD, lists the following as common complaints on his website www.normanrosenthal.com

  • Reduced energy
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning
  • A greater need for sleep
  • Increased appetite, especially for sweets and starches
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue during the day
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Sadness and depression
Dr. Rosenthal points out that sadness and depression are often the last SAD symptoms to manifest themselves. 

Many women with chronic pain report intense feelings of dysphoria.  Because they are hurting, they feel miserable, think distressful thoughts, and move slower and more cautiously than others.  They describe feeling conflicted about their medications which ease their pain but keep them feeling sedated, lethargic and moody. 

Women with chronic pain and depression must work to treat their blues.  Anti-depressant medication is only a helper.  Making a commitment to change - to be less of a spectator and more of a participant in life helps women become less self-centered. Life takes on a more positive meaning. As one of my clients recently said, “I have to keep myself distracted so I don’t wallow in my pain and misery.”

Some ways to increase distraction and participation are:

  • Practice good hygiene
  • Laugh
  • When tempted to eat unhealthy foods, drink iced water (the colder, the better)
  • Get involved in volunteer work
  • Have a “date” with your spouse once a week
  • Stretch and exercise daily as best you can
  • When feeling stressed, ask yourself, “Is this my problem, or is it someone else’s problem to solve?”
  • Keep track of sunrise times and get up early to take advantage of winter sunlight
  • Use “daylight bulbs” in your home to have full spectrum lighting (www.topbulb.com)
  • Make or purchase a “light box” to help with serotonin and melanin production
  • Have your family help with the housework or hire a housekeeper
  • Go outside, take a walk or a drive and get fresh air
Written By: Rhonda Borman, LCSW