Harsh winter causes mood changes in Tri-Staters

CINCINNATI – As the temperatures in the Tri-State dipped this winter, so did our moods.

“Right now it’s, ‘I want something warm, somewhere warm, somewhere south…somewhere out of here,” said Cincinnati AAA District Office Supervisor Jennifer Hester. “It’s been cold too long.”

A change in personality during extremely cold or bleak weather occurs due to an affliction known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

According to researchers, those who suffer from SAD are usually affected by the lack of light during the darker winter months. Studies have also found that when those who suffer from SAD are exposed to more light, they tend to feel better.

“You’re just tired of the winter,” said Cincinnati resident Ray Mcatee. “I’m in outside sales. I’m in and out of my car 20 times, 30 times a day, and it just gets old. The weather really wears on you.”

SAD is a form of depression that occurs in about 5 percent of the nation’s population during the winter months.

But experts say feeling the winter blues doesn’t necessarily mean you’re suffering from SAD.

“We all may feel draggy with the winter blues and kind of lethargic and want to eat more, lay around,” said Dr. Theresa Lengerich. “But if we can still get our jobs done, take care of our families, then its not seasonal affective disorder.”

Instead, Lengerich said SAD causes a period of depressed mood, low energy, lethargy -- and often co-existing with a craving for carbohydrates and lots of comfort food.

She said sometimes those suffering from SAD will stay in bed for long periods of time and show signs of irritability and lack of interest.

Lengerich said SAD can be treated by doing some basic things.

“If we can keep exercise going, stay connected with people, be involved in activities and planning -- if it’s really bad, you may be a person that needs to get to the sunlight,” she said.

Sunlight is hard to come by in the winter, so you can use a light therapy lamp or a vitamin D sunlamp to help with symptoms of sad.

“(SAD) can be treated by raising your vitamin D levels and by a SAD light appliance, which may be on the market,” said Jim Shepherd, president and owner of Sperti Sunlamps. “It’s basically a very, very bright fluorescent light.”

Shepherd said those suffering from SAD should use the lamp for treatment about 20 minutes to an hour each day – and it will right your daily cycle of activity.

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