Seasonal Depression

Each winter, my wife gets depressed.

Question

Every year during winter my wife becomes extremely emotional and depressed. The only reason I can figure is that she’s affected by the lack of sun and the dreary days and weather. Would that be true? Is there something I can do to help her?

Answer

At the outset, it’s important for you to understand that what she is experiencing is real and is experienced by many other people. Your wife is probably suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder Syndrome or SADS. For several years now SADS has been identified by the American Psychiatric Association as an indicator of clinical depression.

An estimated 5 million Americans deal with SADS. It often begins in October/November and lasts for about five months ending in March/April. One study showed that 83% of those who suffer from SADS are women and the onset of the illness typically occurs in the third decade. Some of the symptoms include sustained lowering of mood, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, feelings of guilt and self-blame and helplessness.

Given the nature of SADS, it should be no surprise that the further north you go, the more common it is. For example, SADS affects about 1.9% of the population in Florida and 9.7% of the population of New Hampshire.

The causes of SADS are not totally understood but we do know that it is related to light deprivation.

A significant aspect of being made in God’s image is that, like God, we have emotions. Unfortunately, because of the effects of sin those emotions don’t always function the way God intended them to. The good news is that SADS is very treatable. In most cases the most effective treatment is light and it would be important for you and your wife to seek professional help for a definite diagnosis and suggestions as to what the best treatment might be.

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