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Health Matters: Seasonal Affective Disorder

by Emily DeLeo

With the holidays behind us, we now head into the long dark months of winter. This is a time of year when many people may feel a little down or depressed.

Sometimes this depression is temporary and can be attributed to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The lack of sunlight during January and February is linked to biochemical changes in the brain. The change of seasons can cause changes to your body’s internal biological clock. Some of the symptoms of SAD include fatigue, lack of interest in usual activities, cravings for high-carbohydrate foods and weight gain, although this list does not include all possible symptoms.

Increasing your exposure to sunlight by spending more time outside or trying to sit near a window can help. Often the symptoms of SAD will improve in the spring. However, if the symptoms are serious, please call your doctor right away. If you need help finding a doctor, please call the Riverwest Health Initiative at 263-8383 x.139. Depression should never be taken lightly. Sufferers of chronic depression experience pain that is hard to imagine. The pain of depression can even push individuals to suicide.

The recent coverage of homicide in Milwaukee has certainly been shocking, but suicide data are also alarming. According to data from the Medical College of Wisconsin, suicides outnumbered homicides by 3 to 1 in Wisconsin during 2000. More than 50% of those suicide victims had a history of depression and nearly 40% told someone they were thinking of killing themselves. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, please get help immediately. You can call 2-1-1 (or 773-0211) anytime. The Mental Health Association in Milwaukee County is another excellent resource at 276-3122 or www.mhamilw.org.

Emily DeLeo is the Community Health Liaison for the Riverwest Health Initiative. She can be reached at 263-8383 x139.

Riverwest Currents online edition – January, 2007