Have the Winter Blues? Dr. Farra Discusses Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 1:32 PM comments (1)

Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the days get shorter and the temperatures continue to drop during winter, some people experience depression-like symptoms brought on by seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD is a type of depression that can affect anyone but is most common in people who live in areas where winter days are short and there is a limited supply of sunlight.

Robert Farra, Ph.D., Director of the Adult Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, Department of Psychiatry, answers questions on SAD, from symptoms to treatment options:

Q: What are the symptoms of SAD?

  • Feeling sad or moody
  • Loss of interest in usually pleasurable things
  • Eating more and craving carbohydrates
  • Gaining weight
  • Sleeping more and feeling drowsy during the day

Q: How many people are affected?

  • It is estimated that a half million (500,000) people in the U.S. have SAD.

Q: Why do many people experience depression before the holidays?

  • Typically the days of little sunshine
  • Stress of the season

Q: How can people combat seasonal depression? Any concrete tips? 

  • Light therapy may help. Sitting in front of a high intensity fluorescent lamp (usually 10,000 Lux) for 30 mins to 2 hours can help. 
  • Sometimes people respond better to an antidepressant and specialized treatment called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
  • Depression, regardless of cause, shows up as negative thoughts and feelings.  Ruminating about negative thoughts and feelings can bring us down.
  • CBT teaches that negative thoughts and behaviors, while influenced by such things as a lack of sunlight, are still within a person’s ability to change.

Are you affected by the change of the season? What do you do to stay active even with less sunshine?

 

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What's the Deal with Vitamin D?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 1:00 PM comments (0)

fall sunshine

Vitamin D is a hot topic, both in the news and often in the examination room.  So what’s the deal with vitamin D? Vitamin D is not truly a vitamin but a hormone that’s created by cells when skin is exposed to sunlight. It can help lower one’s risk of heart disease and cancer and promotes healthy bone growth. Unfortunately, nearly two-thirds of Americans are not only running low on this important vitamin but might even be deficient. 

As the days get shorter and we march ever closer to another Chicago-area winter, Curtis Mann, MD, Family Medicine, shares four good reasons to check your vitamin D levels and four ways to improve them: 

(Click on the image to listen to Dr. Mann discusss the importance of vitamin D on NorthShore Health & Wellness.)

Why Is It Important? 

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. If there is a deficiency of vitamin D and thus also a deficiency of calcium, the body will take calcium from its bones, weakening them and leaving them vulnerable to fractures. For kids and teens, it’s vital to bone growth and strength. In adults, vitamin D can help prevent osteomalacia, osteoporosis, bone pain and muscle weakness. 

Vitamin D improves energy level and mood. Vitamin D is a key component in brain development. Deficiencies have been linked to low energy and depressive symptoms. It can also help combat the symptoms of seasonal affect disorder (S.A.D.). 

Vitamin D could improve your health now and later. In studies, vitamin D has been shown to boost the immune system, leaving it in better shape to fight off infections. Studies have also found a positive correlation between sufficient vitamin D levels and lower incidences of cancer—colon, breast, prostate—and heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and potentially more.

Vitamin D may improve athletic performance. A recent study published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal concluded that low levels of vitamin D compromise fitness and energy levels. Athletes with higher levels of vitamin D were shown to perform at a higher level. 

How to Improve Levels:

  1. Sunlight is the best source. Don’t break out aluminum foil tri-fold and start tanning but it doesn’t hurt to get a little bit of sunshine each day. This is especially important for those in climates like ours, where there isn’t a lot of yearlong sunshine. 
  2. Take a supplement. A supplement can help restore levels that might be low due to limited exposure to sunshine. 
  3. Amend your diet. Fatty fish, including tuna, salmon, trout and mackerel, are high in vitamin D, as are egg yolks and cheeses. Some breakfast cereals are even fortified with vitamin D, so check labels.  
  4. Buy fortified dairy. Milk and even orange juice now come in fortified vitamin D varieties. Consider making the switch, especially in winter. 

Have you had your vitamin D levels checked?

 

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Winter Got You Down?

Friday, January 06, 2012 9:05 AM comments (1)

 As the days get shorter and the temperatures continue to drop during winter, some people experience depression-like symptoms. Dr. Robert Farra, Director of Solutions for Depression and Anxiety at NorthShore, shines some light on commonly asked questions relating to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Q: What is seasonal affective disorder?

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that affects a person during the same time each year.
  • Anyone can get SAD, but it’s most common with people who live in areas where winter days are short and there is limited sunlight.

Q: What are the symptoms of SAD?

  • Feeling sad or moody
  • Loss of interest in usually pleasurable things
  • Eating more and craving carbohydrates
  • Gaining weight
  • Sleeping more and feeling drowsy during the day

Q: How many people are affected?

  • It is estimated that half million (500,000) people in the U.S. have SAD.

Q: Why do many people experience depression before the holidays?

  • Typically the days of little sunshine
  • Stress of the season

Q: How can people combat seasonal depression? Any concrete tips?

  • Light therapy may help.  Sitting in front of a high intensity fluorescent lamp (usually 10,000 Lux) for 30 mins to 2 hours can help.
  • Sometimes people respond better to an antidepressant and specialized treatment called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
  • Depression, regardless of cause, shows up as negative thoughts and feelings.  Ruminating about negative thoughts and feelings can bring us down.
  • CBT teaches that negative thoughts and behaviors, while influenced by such things as a lack of sunlight, are still within a person’s ability to change.

Are you affected by the change of the season? What do you do to stay active even with less sunshine?

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