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MT clinical psychologist explains seasonal affective disorder

Posted at 1:24 PM, Feb 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-04 14:09:42-05

GREAT FALLS –  It’s not unlikely to occasionally feel down during this time of year thanks to Montana’s long winter months and shorter hours of sunlight, according to Clinical Psychologist Stephanie Burcusa.

But, sometimes it’s not just a seasonal funk. The combination of these things can sometimes lead to depression with a seasonal component, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Burcusa said this type of depression occurs at the same time every year. Most commonly, the depression sets in during the winter season, but it can occasionally occur during the summer months, she said.

Common symptoms of SAD include: feeling sad, being less interested in activities you normally enjoy, having difficulty concentrating, overeating, sleeping a lot, having low energy and sometimes the feeling of helplessness and having suicidal thoughts.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your primary care specialist right away. There is always someone to talk to 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

“It’s not just feeling sad, it’s not just ‘the winter blues’, but major depression or clinical depression is an illness just like you know, laryngitis, bronchitis, or cancer, or diabetes. So, you really need to get care for that,” Burcusa said,

According to Burcusa, here are some things you can try on your own: being move active, eating well and being less isolated and socialize more.

But, you should still see a doctor and often they will recommend what is best for you. That could be either going on antidepressants, talk therapy or bright light therapy, according to Burcusa.

Bright light therapy consists of a really bright light that is used usually in the morning for a short period of time. Burcusa said the light is supposed to help reset your circadian rhythm and give you a little extra energy to start your day.

-Kasey Herman reporting for MTN News