Seasonal affective disorder worse than winter blues, doctor says

Posted at 7:33 AM, Nov 18, 2019

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It appears winter came a lot earlier for parts of West Michigan this year. That could mean Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is already setting in for some people.

While a lot of people enjoy hitting the slopes and trails in the snow, the cold and cloudy months can be difficult for a number of people.

"A lot of people have what we call the winter blues where they just kind of feel cooped up and down." explained Adelle Cadieux, a pediatric psychologist at Spectrum Health.

"It might be for a day or two, but Seasonal Affective Disorder is more of a consistent depressed feeling where it's affecting your everyday life."

SAD affects adults as well as kids. The signs to look for can vary with age.

"Things like irritability, lack of interest in activities, increase fatigue or sleepiness. With kids, we see things like changes in their school performance or social activities," Cadieux said.

Exercise, getting good sleep, and taking advantage of the daylight we do have are all great ways to help prevent SAD from coming on. Cadieux also suggests not taking too much comfort in those comfort foods, like carbs and sugar which only reinforces those negative feelings and fatigue.

Light therapy claims to be useful for some, but Cadieux wants people to be cautious.

"It can affect sleep and it can affect, for somebody who might be prone to a bi-polar disorder, it can affect a manic episode. We want to reduce those risks and work with a professional as you learn how that light therapy is affecting you," Cadieux explained.

Enlisting help from a doctor or therapist could help make long winter months more bearable.  After all, there are many things to appreciate about Michigan's four seasons.