It’s the middle of January. You’re still reeling from the chaos of a busy holiday season. Temperatures haven’t climbed above 30 degrees for weeks, and the color outside has alternated between gray and black for what seems like an eternity. Winter has sunk its claws in like a house cat trying to escape a veterinary appointment. Your only thoughts seem to revolve around carb heavy meals and sleep. Sound Familiar?
For many Ohioans, winter is a four letter word that has about the same favorability rating as tax season. For lupus patients it can be particularly challenging as the constant cold wreaks havoc on your bodies. As blood vessels constrict to combat heat loss, pressure begins to build in the head, joints, and other extremities. The increased pressure causes circulation to slow, and the associated lack of oxygen begins to cause pain & discomfort. A flare ensues. The prolonged lack of daylight combined with constant flare worthy weather means that lupus patients are much more likely to be affected by things like the ‘winter blues”, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Fortunately, a plethora of research & studies over several decades have found proven ways to help combat them.
The first thing you will want to determine is if you’re experiencing a common case of “winter blues” or if it is something more prolonged like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or depression. Your medical team are the only ones who can accurately make that determination. Sharing things like symptoms, their duration, and other lifestyle factors will help the experts make that determination.
“Winter blues” is a general term, not a medical diagnosis. It’s fairly common, and it’s more mild than serious. It usually clears up on its own in a fairly short amount of time,” says Dr. Matthew Rudorfer, a mental health expert at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Additionally, winter blues are often linked to a specific event like stressful holidays, or reminders of loved ones who have passed. “Seasonal affective disorder, though, is different. It’s a well-defined clinical diagnosis that’s related to the shortening of daylight hours,” says Rudorfer. “It interferes with daily functioning over a significant period of time.” A key difference with SAD is that it is consistent and follows a pattern with onset usually occurring when the seasons change and symptoms remaining until spring or summer. If a physician or clinician determines that you have SAD they may prescribe medication depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Whether you’re experiencing “winter blues” or are diagnosed with SAD, there are things you can do on your own to combat both under the guidance of your medical team.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE NEXT ISSUE OF OUR “LIVING WITH LUPUS” MAGAZINE!
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, please reach out to these resources:
National Mental Health Hotline – (866) 903-3787
Ohio Careline – (800) 720-9616
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline – 988
For Lupus Patient Assistance and Support:
Lupus Foundation of America, Greater Ohio Chapter – (440) 717-0183