Are you SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder is appropriately known by the acronym SAD, and although I’ve never been officially diagnosed, I have no doubt the season of gray and shortened daylight days affect my mood. I’m already feeling the drag, just sitting here typing and looking out the window at the wind blowing the remaining leaves off the trees against a backdrop of the sky with no hint of blue. I suspect many of us feel the same way.
SAD is a form of depression
People with multiple sclerosis already have a greater chance of experiencing depression. That can come from the situation of living with a chronic disease or caused by the MS disease process on the brain, or even both. Either way, depression can be a serious condition and is usually treatable with therapy or pharmaceutical agents. SAD is also a form of depression, and can be treated with different techniques such as using a lightbox to simulate daylight and taking time to be outdoors where a bit of natural light comes through to our brains even when the sky is grey.
Miriam Franco, PsyD MSCS, Psychotherapist and Psychoanalyst, MSAA’s Healthcare Advisory Council writes about SAD, saying it affects about 5% of the population. She points out that people with MS can have depression and SAD, a double whammy for emotions.
Can you pass the test?
Who better to understand the effects of short days on mood than people who live in northern Canada? The Moods Disorders Association of Manitoba has a sample of the Seasonal Patterns Assessment tool online which made me really think about my changes of mood over a year.
This questionnaire allowed me to reflect about my behaviours, physical changes, and mood swings over 12 months. I would recommend you look it over if you think you might be affected by the seasons.
The National MS Society website offers tips on managing depression that also apply to SAD. These include making sure we get regular exercise, maintaining contact with friends and family (our social networks), and getting regular medical care.
Looking after our emotional wellbeing
Living with MS we know to look after our physical care, but it is also important that we tend to our emotional and psychological well-being. If you think you might need help in adjusting to the coming days of winter, be sure to reach out to your medical team.