SAD Symptoms

anging from mild “winter blues” to more severe depression–like symptoms, Seasonal Affective Disorder may hit up to 10 million Americans annually, between September and April when daylight hours decrease. Research indicates SAD rates rise for populations farther from the equator; some believe the condition stems from lack of exposure to natural sunlight, disrupting biorhythms and brain chemicals.

Common SAD symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Increased anxiety and irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, low self–esteem
  • Concentration problems
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Avoiding social contact
  • Loss of interest
  • Sleeping problems
  • Decreased libido.

It’s important to consult with a doctor or mental health professional if these symptoms emerge; every case is different. Common SAD treatment options include:

  • Light boxes — devices that mimic outdoor light and are thought to increase mood and regulate sleep cycles
  • Psychotherapy, counseling, or behavioral therapy
  • Antidepressants
  • Going outdoors to increase daylight exposure
  • Improving diet and exercise.

Have No Fear

According to Robert Leahy, PhD, we live in the Age of Anxiety. About 18% of American adults (40 million people) suffer from related conditions, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.

Common phobias include fear of spiders, snakes, germs, closed spaces, flying, and illness. With proper care, most fears and anxieties are treatable. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Seek professional help: See a doctor if anxiety is affecting your life. For phobias, cognitive behavioral therapy may be used — gradual exposure to the object or situation that’s causing the fear. Medication can be used to treat situational anxieties such as fear of flying.
  • Make a list: Write down your fears, then educate yourself. Anxiety disorders develop from complex risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events, according to the ADAA.
  • Learn relaxation techniques: Practice meditation or deep–breathing to calm yourself when facing an anxiety–inducing situation.
  • Use positive thinking: Visualize overcoming your fear — for instance a safe takeoff and landing — while remembering happy moments in your life. Associating positive thoughts with your phobia can be a tremendous help.

Herb For Depression

For years Europeans have treated depression with a pill made from a wild plant called St. John’s Wort. In Germany, it’s as popular as Prozac. Now, for the first time, a major study is about to test the effectiveness of this alternative medicine.

Karen has a sunny disposition now, but just a few months ago… life felt bleak. “I just was going through a period when I realized that I would come home and sit at my kitchen table and feel like crying, and I wasn’t sure why,” says Karen.

For help, Karen turned to this flowering plant. It’s called St. John’s Wort. In Europe, it’s widely used to treat depression in pill and liquid form, and health stores here have trouble keeping it on the shelves.

Dr. Jonathan is heading up the first major American study of the herb’s effect on depression.

“Even though it has come from, as we say, from alternative medicine, there’s no doubt that many of my colleagues are as interested as I am in finding out whether or not it’s effective.”

A British study showed 55 percent of patients taking the herb felt less depressed. Doctors believe the sense of well being is triggered by a substance called hypericin.

Dr. Beverly believes in the herb’s effectiveness, but she still doubts it will test well since many issues can cause depression.

Beverly, holistic practitioner, “If you don’t address those other issues and simply say, ‘Here’s this one pill that’s going to fix it,’ it doesn’t give it as good a chance to work.”

It seems to work for Karen. “I got my sense of humor back. I found myself laughing a lot more,” she says.

And for that… she thanks this little flower.

Results from the study will be ready in two years. St. John’s Wort has few side effects; however, it’s recommended you see your doctor before trying to treat depression yourself.

I Don’t Want to Talk about It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression

Typically, upon hearing that someone is depressed, our immediate assumption is that the depressed person is female. That connection is not surprising, since, statistically, the rate of depression in women is considered to be two to four times the rate in men. Depression has for years been widely regarded as a women’s disease.

In his book “I Don’t Want to Talk about It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression,” Terrence Real, a psychotherapist who has treated men and their families for over twenty years, challenges that assumption. He contends that depression in men is extremely widespread, but mostly denied or overlooked and misdiagnosed.

“We tend not to recognize depression in men because the disorder itself is unmanly…

Men are not supposed to be vulnerable. Pain is something we are supposed to rise above. He who has been brought down by it will most likely see himself as shameful, and so, too may his family and friends, even the mental health profession. Yet I believe it is this secret pain that lies in the heart of many of the difficulties in men’s lives. Hidden depression drives many of the problems we think of as typically male: alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, failure in intimacy”.

Real describes two forms of depression, overt, in which the symptoms are obvious and the depression is acknowledged for what it is, and covert, where it is hidden, disguised by other behaviors and difficult to recognize. He discusses the cultural pressures on men to deny pain and hide vulnerable feelings, and describes how these destructive patterns begin in childhood when boys are discouraged from expressing vulnerable feelings. Further, he shows how this pressure to remain tough or “manly”, at all costs, drives men to escape those feelings through overwork, rejection of intimacy, even substance abuse and violence.

Citing research studies, case studies from his therapy practice and examples from literature and classical mythology, Real presents a compelling, really indisputable, case for his thesis as well offering important insights into men suffering from depression, and comfort and guidance to those close to them Real’s style, though not casual reading, is clear and thought provoking. His use of language is beautiful. He shares his own personal story and struggle with depression in a manner that is revealing without being self indulgent.

He writes with compassion for his father, for himself and for his patients whose stories he shares. We are invited into therapy sessions to trace the steps one goes through when choosing to confront one’s own pain and move beyond it to being all that one can be.

This is the central purpose of this book, to challenge old myths, and inspire a new direction for men, one that Real contends, will have wide ranging impact over generations “…the unresolved pain of previous generations operates in families like an emotional debt. We either face it or we leverage our children with it. When a man faces up to his depression … the struggle he wages has repercussions far beyond him. A man who transforms the internalized voice of contempt resists violence lying close to the heart of patriarchy itself … And his healing is a spiritual gift … He does more than relieve his own depression. He breaks the chain, interrupting the path of depressions transmission to the next generation.”

Take a Deep Breath

Breathing is one of the body’s most basic functions, but it doubles as a powerful relaxation tool with real health benefits.

In times of stress, your internal “fight or flight” response gets triggered. Your heart races. Muscles grow tense. Your breath gets shallow. This prepares you to face challenges in the moment, but ongoing stress – whether from real threats or overreaction to average events – wears down the immune system and increases blood pressure. Deep breathing limits stress-related wear by actively slowing your heart rate, stabilizing blood pressure and promoting relaxation. Focused breathing that fully engages the diaphragm, the muscle between the chest and abdomen, also improves blood flow and encourages the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body.

To benefit, consider scheduling deep breathing exercises into your day (see instructions below). No time for meditation? Use a ringing phone or a red light as a reminder to take a few slow deep breaths. Though a daily 10- to 20-minute deep breathing routine is ideal, even a few short sessions will relieve tension.

try this basic belly breathing exercise :

1. Sit comfortably, ideally in a quiet space.
2. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, just below your ribs.
3. Inhale deeply through your nose. Your belly should fill out; your chest shouldn’t move.
4. Exhale through pursed lips. Notice your stomach pulling back in.
5. Repeat 3 to 10 times.

From Panic To Power

If you’re expecting something earth-shattering, a magic bullet to transform the person held captive by anxiety into a self-confident world-conqueror, look elsewhere. Lucinda Bassett’s book, while promising in its painstakingly laid-out approach to overcoming anxiety disorder, provides no overnight cure.

Bassett, herself formerly plagued with acute anxiety disorder, draws upon her own road to recovery and the stories of countless others she’s helped since, to weave a tapestry of principles, insights, and guidelines designed to lead to healing.

Having researched and studied and discovered her path to overcoming acute anxiety and agoraphobia, Bassett began sharing her story with others, on television, in public appearances and seminars. She founded the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety where she works with individuals and corporations.

Pollyanna-ish in its dicta — “Nothing is ever as bad as you expect it will be.” “(Happiness) comes from inside yourself, right now, wherever you are.” — Bassett’s message, personal history and down-to-earth examples manage in spite of that to draw the reader into the book and its approach to a problem that affects a growing segment of the population.

Bassett puts forth pronouncement upon pronouncement about “practicing thought replacement” (translation: changing negative thoughts to positive ones), cultivating “an achievement attitude” (translation: “Just do it!”), and recognizing “resistance patterns” (translation: knowing your fears) as she leads the reader down a path to healing that sounds a lot easier said than done.

Translation: there’s really nothing new or revolutionary or particularly provocative here. Much of this has been presented before. Turning the pithy sayings into actual life-changing practice will take dogged effort, effort that at times Bassett seems almost to minimize.

Nonetheless, after a somewhat tedious first half and in spite of the rather simplistic one-two-three steps and bulleted lists of do’s and don’ts, Bassett’s approach with its “I did it; so can you!” enthusiasm is persuasive. An easy read (look for the funny asterisks, the bolding, caps and italics if you’re in a rush to make it even easier), this is a book you may want to keep on hand for lending to friends.

You may even want to keep it on hand yourself for reference when you’re looking for just that perfect positive message to get you through the day.