HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Jan. 16, 2006

Beating the winter blues

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

With the recent two weeks without seeing the sun, many may be feeling a bit blue. This isn’t far from the truth.

According to Thomas Styrvoky, MD of Cokato’s Allina Medical Clinic, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is “very real.”

It’s been known in areas north of the equator, where there is less daylight, rates of depression, alcoholism and suicides go up, whether it’s North America or Europe, Styrvoky stated.

This winter depression affects an estimated half a million people between Sept. and April, but particularly in December, January, and February, according to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA).

“It is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter,” according to the organization’s web site.

For some it may be “a seriously disabling illness,” but for others is “a mild, but debilitating condition causing discomfort, but not severe suffering.”

Some of the symptoms include fatigue, depression and overeating.

Some cures of this disorder include using a light-therapy lamp, anti-depressants, and psychotherapy.

According to SADA, light therapy is one to two hours of light exposure 10 times that of regular lighting. This has been effective in 85 percent of diagnosed cases.

Styrvoky recommends becoming more active during the winter months. For example, take a short walk on lunch breaks, or find a fun winter activity to engage in. “This makes the winter months go by much faster and can make a huge difference in mood and health,” he said.

While he hasn’t been treating patients necessarily with SAD, he does treat depression. “People are under a lot of stress, they expect more of life than it’s going to give them,” he said. “I just listen and do what I can for them.”

Styrvoky believes that anti-depressants are a safe and effective way of treating depression and SAD. He’s a firm believer in exercise as medicine and he recommends “turning off the TV and getting out to exercise,” he said.

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