It is Movember, and one of the causes that I hold most dear to me is being concerned with Men’s Mental Health. The biggest reason that this is a major issue is because men “like” to suffer in silence. They all to often prefer to forego help instead choosing to “tough it out” for fear of appearing “soft.” Many studies over decades all show that men, regardless of age, nationalities, ethnic or racial background are far less likely than women to seek out professional help.
I will go more into the general Mental Health issues soon, but for today I am going to delve into one in particular that is most personal to me because it affects… me. That is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I can speak to the above statistics of avoiding seeking help, because I did. I 42 years old before I was finally officially diagnosed with SAD, because since it was something that would “come and go” I figured I could beat it on my own. Then once I had an idea of what it might be, and discovered it is something that is more common in women than men (or at least it is diagnosed in women more than men, since women are more likely to seek help). But once I was finally diagnosed, and once I had a plan to beat it, I began to kick myself for not seeking help sooner, as it was so much easier to manage once I had an idea of why.
It is more talked about today, so I am sure most people have at least heard of SAD, but lets go over it anyway. As they say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, so lets dig in for more detail. SAD is a form of depression that corresponds with the change of seasons, with the most common form being winter depression. With a name like that, most people assume that SAD starts after the Winter Solstice, but depending on a person’s location (the further north, the earlier it will start), it can start as early as mid September and can be kicked off for many by the switch over from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time.
Symptoms of SAD include:
- A change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods’
- Weight gain
- A heavy feeling in the arms or legs
- A drop in energy level
- A tendency to oversleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased sensitivity to social rejection
- Avoidance of social situations—not wanting to go out
To fully diagnose SAD, you will need to go through some steps that rule out other types of depression. If you are not ready to take that step, or you do not believe it is affecting you enough to go to those lengths, there are some simple things that you can do to see if they will help with being “a little down” when the days start turning darker.
The first and most obvious is, get more light. One of the biggest reasons for SAD is the reduction in the amount of time we spend in the sun, so getting in the sun more is the easiest way to start. Open Shades and/or blinds… in other words, make your world brighter, get outside, go for a walk and/or exercise frequently if not daily. All of this will help your body produce more vitamin D (a deficiency believed to be at the root of SAD)… and of course you can also simply use Vitamin D supplements, though it is generally not considered as good as getting it naturally. If that is not enough, then you will probably need to seek at least some sort of professional heap. Two common methods of dealing with SAD is light therapy or medications such as buproprion (Wellbutrin), both have good results. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that therapy could help as well.
You don’t “get over” or “get better” from SAD. You only learn to identify it and learn to live with it without it having an adverse affect on your life or at least to limit it. If you find yourself that you may be contending with SAD, don’t ignore it… yes it will go away eventually, as the season changes, but it will only come back. There is no reason to suffer with it. Step up and deal with it. You will be glad you did.