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Seasonal Affective Disorder: Does it affect Seniors?

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Does it affect Seniors?

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” – Aristotle

With the winter weather setting in, many people are currently making changes to their daily routines to adjust to the cold temperatures and shorter daylight hours. During harsh winters, it is not unusual to spend more time at home or to feel more bored and restless than you do in the summer. For some people, the change in seasons brings about some serious mental health concerns. If you or your ageing loved one shows the signs or symptoms of depression in the winter, it might be the result of seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a common mental health condition. It can cause distressing symptoms for several months out of the year, and it is important to take it seriously if you notice the signs in yourself or someone else. Older adults may be particularly vulnerable to developing seasonal depression, but there are many effective strategies to reduce the symptoms and cope with the disorder.

Seasonal Affective disorder
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that sets in or gets worse during the winter. People with SAD may experience no or minimal mental health symptoms during the spring, summer, and early fall, but as the days get shorter, the winter weather has a severe effect on their mood and energy level.
SAD is most likely caused by changes in daylight in the wintertime. The decrease in the amount of natural light can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm and lead to a number of hormonal changes that influence your mood. Cold temperatures, darkness, and bad weather can keep people at home and away from their family or friends, and this isolation may affect your mental and emotional health.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder in Seniors
Seasonal Affective Disorder affects everyone, but like all types of depression, SAD can get overlooked in seniors. The symptoms are often attributed to cognitive decline or to the normal effects of ageing, so older adults may not get the mental health treatment they need to improve their well-being. Being watchful for the signs of depression is essential so that you can offer support to your loved ones when they need it. The symptoms of the seasonal affective disorder are similar to the symptoms of other depressive disorders, but they mostly appear in winters. The person experiences a depressed mood (feeling sad, irritable, empty) or a loss of pleasure or interest in activities, for most of the day, nearly every day. Several other symptoms are also present, which may include poor concentration, feelings of excessive guilt or low self-worth, hopelessness about the future, thoughts about death or suicide, disrupted sleep, changes in appetite or weight, and feeling especially tired or low in energy.

Research suggests that the following ways are effective in managing Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  1. Light Therapy: The primary care doctor can recommend an at-home treatment regimen with a light therapy box. In most cases, people sit in front of the light box for about 30 minutes per day in the winter to get the full effect of the therapy.

  2. Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes can be helpful for managing SAD. While you may not be able to completely overcome a mental health disorder through lifestyle changes, you can improve your overall sense of well-being and reduce your symptoms by taking active measures to protect your physical and mental health.

  3. Therapy/Counseling: In therapy, you can explore the causes of seasonal depression and discover the factors that might make your symptoms worse. The counsellor will help you find coping skills for negative thoughts so that these thoughts don’t control your beliefs about yourself or the world.

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