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Shedding light on SAD

Shedding light on SAD

Been feeling blue since winter set in? Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression caused by lack of sunlight. In areas of the country like Wisconsin where winter days are cold and short and leave little opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, SAD is not uncommon. It affects up to 20 percent of the population, mostly women in their 20s and 30s. Learn to recognize the signs of SAD in your workplace so you can prevent productivity from dropping with the temps.

SAD Facts
“Lack of sunlight interrupts the sleep-wake cycle – called circadian rhythms – and it can also drain the body’s levels of serotonin, a brain chemical affecting mood,” says Daniel Neunaber, PhD, psychologist with Affinity Health System. SAD is often treated with light therapy. “For half an hour a day, sufferers can sit in front of a special light box that mimics the sun and signals the brain to produce more serotonin, lifting mood and relieving symptoms of SAD,” says Dr. Neunaber.
 
SAD Symptoms
SAD usually occurs between November and February, winter’s darkest months. Symptoms start to ease when spring weather returns in March or April. Common complaints include:
  • grumpy, anxious or irritable mood
  • loss of interest in usual activities
  • daytime drowsiness
  • changes in appetite, weight or sleep habits

As with other forms of depression, these symptoms appear in the workplace in the form of poor job performance, calling in sick or squabbling with co-workers. How can you help?

Use Your EAP
If you suspect an employee is suffering from seasonal affective disorder, encourage him to get help. “Counselors can offer coping strategies for people struggling with seasonal depression and its related effects,” says Donna Schmitz, EAP counselor for Affinity Health System. If further support or treatment is needed, your EAP can connect SAD sufferers with more resources.

Create a Bright Spot
If possible, provide places for employees to soak in some natural light. It’s best if lunch rooms and break areas have windows, but if that’s not an option, try adding more lights to the space. “Dimly lit rooms only compound the problem,” says Dr. Neunaber.  

Break the Cabin Fever
It may be cold outside, but you don’t have to cease all outdoor activities until spring. Start a winter walking club and venture out for brisk strolls on milder days. The natural light and exercise can be therapeutic.

For more information, visit http://www.affinityhealth.org/page/services-specialty-occupational

What exactly are those baby blues?

It’s nothing that we really like to talk about, but something that we certainly should. About 90 percent of women will have postpartum blues of some sort.

It seems to creep in a few days after birth, and you’ll find yourself crying for no reason, sleeping even worse than you’d expect with a newborn, or truly doubt that you can care for your baby. Most new moms experience this to some degree, but this is just a bit more than you might expect.

So, when should you start worrying that it might be something you need to talk to your doctor about? I get worried when those feelings don’t fade after about a week, or when the new mom doesn’t seem to be functioning well.

It can worsen to a full postpartum depression, and this is where you have really strong feelings of despair, sadness and anxiety and can’t accomplish routine daily tasks that normally wouldn’t be a big deal. I also pay attention to times when moms are overly concerned about their baby, especially when they wake up and routinely check on the baby. This is an unknown but common sign of postpartum depression. Continue Reading »

Depression during the holiday season

The holiday season is fast approaching, and we see lots of red, green, gold and silver in the stores and our homes as we prepare for upcoming celebrations. But for some, the dominant color of the holidays is blue.  Some may wonder, “How can this be?  I’m supposed to feel happy and excited, looking forward to spending time with family!”  Others may think, “How can the holidays be enjoyable when I have so much added stress with decorating, preparing meals, not to mention buying gifts when we hardly get by paying our bills each month. Where’s the money going to come from?” Finally there are those who may think, “I dread the thought of having another family argument at Thanksgiving because Uncle Jerry gets drunk and tells everybody what he really thinks!”

To survive, and even thrive, during this time, consider the following recommendations according to WebMD:

  •      Be realistic: There is no such thing as a “perfect” holiday (someone would have discovered it by now).  Concentrate on the traditions that make holidays meaningful for you and your family.
  •      Know your spending limit: Money is the largest factor for stress during the holidays, and is compounded by current economic strain.  Keeping your spending to a realistic amount will greatly reduce stress for both you and your loved ones.
  •      Share the tasks:  Expect (or allow) others to help with food preparation and other tasks.  Engage your children, grandchildren, nieces/nephews, etc.  in the preparation in an enjoyable manner to  continue old traditions or create new ones.
  •      Learn to say “no”:  It’s important to let others (and yourself) know you have limits.  Consider the positives in setting limits for others.
  •      Keep a regular schedule:  Eating, sleeping, exercising and limiting your alcohol intake are vital ingredients for managing stress and reducing depressive symptoms.
  •      Get support if you need it: This may be the first holiday season since the death of a loved one, a breakup of a significant relationship or seeing family member(s) you avoid due to conflict.  Although it may be difficult or embarrassing, asking for help can be more beneficial than doing it alone.  “Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” is a common myth for dealing with depression but it only further isolates individuals who need support.

Don’t worry, be happy: signs & symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Learn about the signs & symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), as well as ways to treat it.

Getting diagnosed with cancer and depression

Receiving the news that you have cancer can be emotionally devastating so it makes sense that everyone who is diagnosed with cancer is depressed… true?

Actually, the statement above is a myth. Although it is “normal” for cancer patients to feel degrees of sadness and anxiousness as they adjust to accompanying changes in their physical health (and appearance for some), not everyone becomes clinically depressed.  Approximately 15 to 25 percent of cancer patients will also meet the criteria for clinical depression or an anxiety disorder; and because of the myth, their clinical depression/anxiety is often underdiagnosed and undertreated.

So how does one distinguish the difference between a stress/grief reaction to a highly stressful event and clinical depression when diagnosed with cancer? Following are the similarities and differences between grief and depression: Continue Reading »

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