The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

December 8, 2012

Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect anyone

Shorter, darker days can lead to depression, changes in sleep and appetite

OTTUMWA — Yes, it’s a cold, dreary day in December. The dark winter months may have you feeling depressed. Does that mean you’ve got Season Affective Disorder or just the winter blues?

Dr. Jefrey Start, director of the sleep disorder center at Ottumwa Regional Health Center, says there’s not really a difference.

Health professionals define Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as recurring depression with a seasonal beginning and ending. While some people do have SAD tendencies in spring and summer, it is widely connected to the winter months.

“I don’t know anybody, even if they enjoy snow, that it doesn’t get to be too much after a while. It’s just not enjoyable anymore, and their outlook gets down,” Start said. “Unlike some other kinds of depression, (SAD) is something people can very easily accept. It’s something they can relate to.”

Anyone who has lived in Iowa for any length of time knows that this time of year means shorter, darker days. Even at the beginning of winter, Start says the lack of light can dramatically affect mood, sleep, appetite, weight and other daily activities.

While it’s not like throwing a switch and realizing you have symptoms of SAD, many people will notice a change in some personal characteristics and match them to the changing seasons.

“Most people can keep this in perspective,” Start said. “Technically speaking, this is your body and your brain reacting to the reduction of light. When you break out of winter, you’ll really notice the difference.”

Start says those who already have depression are more likely to have SAD, and the symptoms are often more noticeable with age.

“If you’re concerned, go to the doctor and talk about it. If it fits the pattern of the seasons and then abates, then you’ll feel better in the spring,” Start said. “But you don’t need a doctor to put a fancy name on it. If a well-lit room makes you feel better, then it’s not rocket science. It’s common sense.”

The treatments for SAD vary depending on the severity of the symptoms. Milder cases may simply need some behavior modification. Start says many people respond well to light therapy, which may include bright light treatment in a light box. More severe problems may require antidepressants and therapy with a mental health specialist.

Since we can’t hibernate until winter is over, there are two very simple ways to gain the upper hand on SAD. Start says the average person can fight back by finding well-lit places to spend time and being as active as possible.

“Make sure to do as much as you possibly can — get out of house and into well-lit areas. You’ll find you feel better in the light,” he said. “And get out and exercise. Go to the gym, take a walk. More activity will help because your brain can regulate better if you’re active.”

During the winter months, Start suggests going to the gym, where they’ll have bright lights on. Places like the mall, the library or anywhere with more light than outside are great places to warm up, get some exercise and keep your mind working.

Text Only
Local News
  • Ladies Night Out through downtown Ottumwa Friday OTTUMWA — Ladies, are you ready for a night on the town? Then grab your passport and head downtown Friday evening. Beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday, 28 downtown businesses will keep their doors open late for a special Ladies Night Out. Everyone will mee

    April 20, 2014

  • 0422 Eagle photo On a wing and a prayer

    LAKE RED ROCK — Protective gloves aren’t uncommon when dealing with a sick patient, though they’re not usually heavy, leather welder’s gloves. But, then, the patient usually doesn’t have toenails designed to puncture flesh. Or a sharp beak. Diane Mas

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0420 OTT Gothic house easter web-color photo American Gothic House celebrates Easter weekend Kids participate in an egg roll competition Saturday on the American Gothic House lawn in Eldon. Families were invited to come and participate in Easter-themed events and make crafts. They also had the opportunity to dress up and pose in front of the

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0422 OTT Egg hunt color photo -L On a roll this Easter ELDON — If you pulled up to the American Gothic House Center Saturday afternoon at moments before 1 p.m., you probably had to park halfway down the road. Cars filled the parking lot and spilled out onto the street as parents and kids from all over so

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ups and downs OTTUMWA — Iowa's governor and his lieutenant seemed thrilled with part of the employment news Friday. Gov. Terry Branstad's Twitter page said: "BREAKING: Iowa's employment reaches all-time high of 1,615,200." Iowa Workforce Development confirms the n

    April 18, 2014

  • Those who came before OTTUMWA — There is so much information on researching genealogy, beginners may not know where to start. But experts and knowledgeable amateurs will offer help as they gather for a free Family History Fair to share which websites are worthwhile and wh

    April 18, 2014

  • 0419 OTT Tree planting color photo -T -M -L Young Ottumwans show their green thumbs OTTUMWA — Several of Ottumwa’s cemeteries and parks were recipients of new trees this week as Ottumwa High School students and Eagle Scouts dedicated their time to planting dozens of trees around the city. Students from the OHS JROTC class were at Ot

    April 18, 2014 4 Photos

  • 0419 OTT Prayer Walk 2 bw photo -L -M -T On a journey OTTUMWA — The seven blocks through the center of Ottumwa took more than an hour and a half to walk as 25 people prayed and read Scripture to reflect on the events of Good Friday. Led by the Ottumwa Area Fellowship of Pastors, the walk began at First

    April 18, 2014 3 Photos

  • 0419 OTT drought map -L -T -M Drought weakens grip on Iowa OTTUMWA — Last weekend saw the first significant rains in quite some time for the Ottumwa area. How long? The last day with at least a half-inch of rain was back on Nov. 20. It was a welcome rain, arriving after the ground had thawed. That allowed at

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Eugene Clark STOCKPORT — Eugene Morris Clark, 90, of Stockport, died at 5:30 p.m. April 17, 2014, at Good Samaritan Health and Rehabilitation Center, Ottumwa. Graveside services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Spencer Cemetery northeast of Stockport; Pastor Richard

    April 18, 2014

Photo reprints