Shining a light on SAD

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Hailey Haux
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
What are some thoughts that go through your mind when you think about the winter months?

As it gets darker and colder, some people tend to get a little sadder than in the bright, sunny days.

"Seasonal affective disorder is a variant of major depressive disorder where the depressive episodes show up seasonally," said Maj. Donald Christman, 86th Medical Operations Squadron mental health flight commander. "The symptoms of SAD are typically depressed mood, changes in sleep and appetite, low energy and feelings of guilt."

There are two types of SAD; a fall on-set and a spring on-set.

"The fall on-set is more common," said Christman. "With increased sleep, weight gain and irritability, it's a lot like a bear going into hibernation."

He said the less common is the spring on-set, where a person would be more likely to have insomnia and decreased appetite.

"We have approximately eight hours of daylight during the winter months," said Staff Sgt. John Deehan, 86th Operational Weather Squadron weather forecaster. "We lose about two minutes of daylight a day until Dec. 21, when the process reverses."

While SAD can have a tremendous impact, there are some things that can be done to help with the disorder.

"There are many ways a person can try to prevent SAD," said Christman. "Increasing their exposure to sunlight, with the help of a light box or other bright lights can be a big help. Get out of the office and take a walk during the daylight hours around the base."

SAD is more common in women, those in their late teens to early twenties and military members who have a permanent change of station to areas with less sunlight, said the mental health flight commander.

"A strong social network is key to helping someone with depression in general," said Christman. "Having people who know when you are not yourself, not only during the winter months, but all year."

If an Airman is experiencing any of the symptoms of SAD or depression in general, there are many places they can go to get help.

"The family health clinic, the mental health flight, your primary care doctor, the chaplain and military and family life consultants are all there to help," said Christman. "The best thing a person can do is be aware and educated about SAD and get help if needed."

For assistance with depression or other mental health issues, call your local chaplain, military and family life consultant or mental health clinic.