Tag Archives: Mental Health

Seasonal affective disorder: feeling down when the temperatures drop

Do you start feeling down in the winter months? You aren’t alone. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, presents as a variety of depression-like symptoms caused by your body getting out of its biological rhythm. Winter-onset SAD (the most common type) results from your body “losing its bearings” during the period of reduced daylight. Without sunlight to give your hormones a clue about the natural dawn-dusk cycle, your body’s chemical levels become unbalanced.

Especially if your work routine means arriving at and leaving the office when it’s dark outside, your body may be producing too much melatonin or too little serotonin, hormones involved in your body’s sleep-wake cycle. This kind of imbalance produces the slew of possible symptoms:

  • Fatigue and drop in energy levels
  • A tendency to oversleep
  • Change in appetite, like cravings
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Heightened sensitivity to social rejection
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Physical problems, like headaches

While 10 to 20 percent of people in the United States suffer some SAD symptoms (called the “winter blues”), only four to six percent of people meet all the criteria of SAD diagnoses. SAD is more common in women than in men and generally shows in people at least 20 years of age. The risk increases for adults with age or for those that live in regions where winters are long and harsh.

Luckily, there are ways to combat SAD. Melatonin supplements and light therapy (intentionally exposing yourself to more sunlight) are ways of treating SAD. Melatonin is the hormone that your body starts producing when it gets dark in order to prepare you for sleep. Ensuring that your melatonin levels rise and fall on the proper timeline can offset SAD. Light therapy involves using daylight-simulating devices for certain periods of time each day to reach the same goal, and exposure to actual sunlight will do this naturally.

Antidepressants may also be used in some cases, as many antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), work by helping to restore serotonin hormone balance.

If you have concerns about seasonal affective disorder or believe you are experiencing symptoms, be sure to discuss it with your health care provider. Visit our website or call (563) 584-3000 to schedule an appointment with Medical Associates today.

Note: SAD may share many symptoms with major depression or dysthymia. Call a doctor IMMEDIATELY if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255
Medical Associates 24-hour HELP Nurse: 1 (800) 325-7442



Source links:
Mayo Clinic
American Academy of Family Physicians
National Institute of Mental Health

Tips to Help Manage Holiday Stress

The holiday season is a time filled with excitement and special traditions. But it also brings a chaotic cluster of demands which can leave many feeling overwhelmed, out of sync, or even lonely. Baking, shopping, cleaning, decorating, wrapping, traveling…it can all add up to quite the list of things to do! It’s important to take a little time to regain control and balance. Here are some key things you can do to stay mentally and physically healthy throughout this busy holiday season.

Make a realistic plan. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting with family and friends, and other activities. Plan your menu and make a shopping list before you go to the store. This will help prevent last-minute scrambling for forgotten items. And if you need help with food or party prep, delegate and line up your helpers in advance.
It’s also important to remember that the holidays do not have to be perfect, or exactly the same as last year. As families grow and change, traditions and rituals can change too. Focus on a few favorite customs to enjoy if others are no longer possible.

Set a budget and stick to it by learning to say no. Before you even go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Gifts can be the main expense for many during the holiday season, but don’t forget to account for the cost of holiday meals, any wrapping or decor supplies, and any travel costs. If you are nervous about your budget, there are easy ways to save. Try homemade gifts instead or start a family gift exchange.

When your established plan or budget is in jeopardy, it’s important to say no. Overcommitting or overspending will only leave you resentful or overwhelmed later. Your family and friends will understand if you can’t be there for everything.

Acknowledge your feelings and set aside differences. Gathering with loved ones might be the most common holiday tradition. This positive practice can inadvertently be a negative reminder for some by pointing out those that couldn’t be with you this year. If a loved one has recently died or can’t be with you this year, it’s okay to feel sadness and grief. In fact, it’s absolutely normal. Take time to express your feelings. Next, reach out if you feel lonely or need support. Surrounding yourself with family and friends through social or religious gatherings is a great defense. Volunteering with others is also a great way to meet new people and spread cheer. If these feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, or sadness persist and you can’t sleep or motivate yourself to do routine chores, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

And if you are surrounded by family and old friends and your personality doesn’t really mesh with a few people, try to set aside any differences you may have. Do your best to accept family members and friends as they are. Set aside grievances for a more appropriate time.

Think positive and take time for you. When stressed, it’s that much harder to stop and regroup even though it’s what your body really needs. If holiday plans are getting too overwhelming, simply take a break. Even if you can only achieve 15 minutes of quiet, alone time – do it. Go for a walk, listen to soft music, work out, get a massage, or read a book. Recharge and then move forward with a better attitude. And when all else fails, just do less and enjoy more. The memories with loved ones are the whole point, not ribbons or fancy meals.

Don’t abandon your healthy habits. Amidst the carols, treats, and shopping, don’t forget the simple things – like eating breakfast and getting enough sleep each night. Keep time for exercise in your daily plan and enjoy special holiday treats in moderation. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t over indulge or bring a healthy food option to contribute. By sticking to your health routine as much as possible during the holidays, you won’t feel like you have to start over come January.

The holidays can be peaceful and enjoyable with a little planning and positive thinking. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers and delegate tasks so all the prep doesn’t become a burden. You can survive the frenzy! Just remember the reason for the season and hold loved ones close. Happy holidays from Medical Associates!


Sources: www.heart.org

What you need to know about Antidepressants

Antidepressant medications are effective for depression, anxiety, and some pain conditions. However, they might be slower to become effective than other medications that you may have taken. Researchers are uncertain why these medications take weeks to reach effectiveness, but your patience and adherence with taking your antidepressant daily is an important part of getting well. Some patients improve in a couple weeks, and others may not fully respond for 6 to 12 weeks. Not only is the time that you’ve taken the antidepressant important in evaluating your response, each antidepressant has a range of dosages and your healthcare provider may consider dosage increase or other strategies if you are not responding as expected. It’s important to keep follow-up appointments and discuss your response (or lack of response) to the antidepressant medication with your prescriber. Your healthcare provider has other treatment options including increasing the medication dosage, switching to a different antidepressant, adding another medication, or adding psychotherapy.

All medications have potential adverse effects and current commonly prescribed antidepressants have low risk for serious negative effects. Often, mild nausea, dry mouth, headache, bowel habit change, or sleep disturbance are signs that the medication is starting to take effect and these effects frequently go away after a few weeks. If you are concerned that you are experiencing intolerable side effects, or don’t think that you want to continue taking the antidepressant medication, you should contact your prescriber to discuss your concerns. Abrupt discontinuation of some antidepressants can result in unpleasant withdrawal-like symptoms, and some patients develop sudden worsening.

Alcohol and recreational drug use can negatively affect the effectiveness of antidepressant medications. Alcohol and sedatives are powerful drugs that cause depression, and sometimes rebound anxiety, so that antidepressants don’t work very well. Your healthcare provider can more effectively help you if you are open about your alcohol and other drug use.

Once you’ve responded well to antidepressant medication, follow your prescriber’s recommendations for maintenance treatment.

Increasingly, research has found that depression, anxiety, and pain are chronic or recurring conditions over a lifetime, so that the illness is better managed by maintaining on the full dosage that was initially effective. Each individual has personal factors that can be discussed with your healthcare provider to develop your best treatment plan.


lee, yasyn
Dr. Yasyn Lee, Psychiatrist
Medical Associates Clinic




The Department of Psychiatry & Psychology is made up of a specialized support team trained to care for individuals of all ages with emotional, cognitive, and behavioral concerns. Our board-certified psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistant, along with our licensed psychologists, provide services that span the full range of mental health disorders and behavior problems. Please call 563-584-3500 or visit our website for more information.