Holiday depression common

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Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

- Sleep problems: Usually the desire to oversleep and difficulty staying awake or disturbed sleep or early morning wakening.

- Fatigue

- Overeating

- Depression: Having feelings of misery, guilt, loss of self-esteem, hopelessness or apathy.

- Social problems: Having the desire to avoid social contact.

- Anxiety: Having feelings of tension and the inability to tolerate stress.

- Mood changes

- Loss of sexual libido

- Compiled from the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association

On the 'Net

For more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder, visit sada.org.uk

— The holiday season often is a time of joyous celebration and the coming together of family and friends. But for an increasing number of people, the end-of-year occasions and the changing of the seasons are invitations for depression.

David Reed, a licensed clinical social worker, said some feelings of depression are normal during the holidays, but he warned that persistent symptoms of depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder could be a sign of a more serious mental health issue.

"First, people need to understand that there is a difference between holiday depression and SAD," Reed said. "SAD is specific in that people begin experiencing mood changes because the seasons change and there is less available sunlight."

Regular symptoms of depression, which can include difficulty sleeping, loss of energy, weight gain or loss and a desire for isolation, are not necessarily seasonal but can be accentuated around holidays, when people often are reminded of difficult times or loss, Reed said.

"The holidays can be times of high expectations and high stress. Generally, people are reminded of the losses they have experienced in life, and those feelings are only heightened around the holidays," he said.

Signs that a bout of depression is more than just a passing episode include extended periods of the symptoms or thoughts of suicide.

"If you've been depressed for two weeks and it's been cloudy for two weeks, then bingo, that's probably normal. However, if depression is disrupting your normal daily functions, it may be time to see a mental health professional," he said.

Steamboat Mental Health offers a program called Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide that is designed to help educate the public on how to detect symptoms of depression and assist those who are suffering from depression, especially those who might be threatening or contemplating suicide.

"We get the media messages that we're supposed to be jolly and happy, but not everyone feels like that. If it becomes clear someone is suicidal, that needs to be acted on immediately," Reed said.

Unlike long-term depression, SAD often can be cured with light therapy.

"The best advice I can give is to get 20 minutes of full-spectrum sunlight a day. That works for a lot of people," he said.

Those suffering from SAD also can purchase manufactured full-spectrum light bulbs if getting outside isn't a possibility.

"That can be helpful for many people. If that works you don't have to do anything else," he said.

For more information, or to talk to a professional about your depression or that of a loved one, call Steamboat Mental Health at 870-1244.

- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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