Winter blues

Many West Michigan residents say their moods dip in response to the lack of sunshine this time of year.
Krystle Wagner
Dec 20, 2012

Experts say the months with lower natural light triggers a seasonal pattern depression, commonly known as seasonal affective disorder, or winter blues.

Jane Longstreet, the mental health program supervisor for Community Mental Health of Ottawa County, said winter blues is actually a less severe form of seasonal pattern depression. Symptoms of the so-called blues are milder and the person’s functioning might not be impaired.

“So it may be that people find it’s harder to get up and get going in the morning, or they have the urge to eat more, or feel a bit 'down' and sluggish," Longstreet explained the winter blues. "But they are still able to perform their normal duties and responsibilities."

The more serious S.A.D. is a "seasonal pattern specifier" that is diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorders, Longstreet said.

Although the winter months lay ahead, Longstreet said people don’t have to suffer.

“It is treatable,” she assured.

One way people can brighten those dreary "cabin-fever" days is through phototherapy, which uses a special lamp that mimics outdoor daylight.

Such lights can be purchased locally at the North Ottawa In-Home Care Equipment store, 1310 Wisconsin Ave. in Grand Haven. Although the location carries one style, the store's manager, Susan Roberts, said there are more on the market that can be ordered and shipped.

The lights look like ordinary lamps and are helpful just by sitting near one — as long as the light is registered in the person’s eyes for 20-30 minutes a day.

“They do help people who have winter blues,” Roberts said.

Roberts said they only sell about 10 lamps each year, with the biggest demand coming in February. She encourages residents to check with their health insurance carrier to see if they cover the expense.

Longstreet also recommends people take care of themselves and exercise to beat the blues.

“Get out there and be active,” she encouraged. “Use friendship and family support networks to reach out to. It’s good to have people watching out for you if you’re prone to the disorder.”

When the blues turn to depression and thoughts of suicide, Longstreet encourages people to seek help. Residents can call the 24/7 Community Mental Health of Ottawa County helpline at 866-512-4357. If it’s an immediate emergency, call 911.

“There are many excellent therapists and doctors in Ottawa County that can help,” Longstreet said. “Don’t suffer needlessly,”

Tips for handling seasonal affective disorder or winter blues:

Get enough sleep, but not too much

Use light therapy for seasonal pattern depression

Eat well

Limit or avoid alcohol

Stay busy, both physically and mentally

Source: Community Mental Health of Ottawa County

Comments

rukidding

Do you feel that stating the obvious and giving fuel to the hypochondriacs is a service to those of us who employ them? Yet another excuse for not being availble to work a scheduled shift. Our insurance doesn't cover grow lamps, I mean artificial sun lamps; I'm blue today and can't make it in.

LessThanAmused

U R an ass. I've suffered from this condition all my life. Long before I had any idea it wasn't normal, or what the problem was, long before they even had a name for it. Your ignorant, condescending attitude toward something you don't experience or understand is deplorable. For the record I've never missed a day of work because of S.A.D. symptoms, but if I worked for a cretin like you I'd probably be looking for any excuse to take a day off until I could find a real job instead of mowing lawns for an idiot tyrant.

rukidding

It certainly is obvious why you use that name badge; you certainly have no sense of humor. I was making a tongue in cheek remark to the author and you chose to take it personally and start name calling and insinuations? The remark about insurance not covering grow lamps, oops artificial sun lamps would have been a clue for most persons of average intelligence. Your paranoia that this had anything to do with you, or anybody specifically is very telling. My suggestion to you might be to either take your meds, or stop taking them, maybe eat a brownie, smoke a joint; whichever is appropriate. Trying to pick a fight for no reason at all and making what could have been an intelligent and humorous discussion on marijuana growing, and it's medicinal benefits, into a personal afront on someone you don't know, is well... I leave it to you to fill in the blank on that one, I choose to not stoop to a level of name calling. Oh, at least try to have a Merry Christmas if you aren't suffering to much from your afflictions; what a scrooge! By the way, my employees, none of which found the need to take this personally, found it hilarious; when they got back from cutting the "grass", oh, I meant lawns.

LessThanAmused

Humor eh? Well, if your idea of humor is showing off your ignorance and perpetrating stereotypes then you're right...I don't have that sense of humor. I didn't take your idiot comments personally, but I don't find anything funny about making light of any group of people who suffer from some type of emotion or mental issue, particulary in light of current events.

I suppose this post contains more of your special brand of humor when you suggest I take my meds. More ignorance on your part. If you'd read the article you'd see that meds aren't used to combat S.A.D. Things like getting enough sleep, eating right, getting exercise will help considerably in all but the worst cases.

Aside from the rest of the drivel you spout I'm curious how you planned to take a marginal article on S.A.D. and turn it into "an intelligent and humorous discussion on marijuana growing, and it's medicinal benefits". Really? I'd suggest putting the bong down, at least during working hours.

Merry Christmas to you also and remember, education isn't something to be feared.

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