The weeks following the holiday season can be tinged with sadness for some, but local mental health service providers stress it is important for individuals to know when to seek help with the “winter blues.”
Alternative Paths CEO Jeffrey Allen said Monday that seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is a form of depression that affects individuals on a seasonal basis.
“Principally, it begins and ends at about the same time every year, usually in the fall and continues into winter months,” Allen said.
According to information from the National Institute of Mental health, SAD is not considered a separate disorder from depression. Those diagnosed with SAD must demonstrate symptoms of depression during specific seasons for at least two years.
Symptoms of SAD include low energy levels, social withdrawal, hypersomnia, overeating and weight gain, while risk factors for the condition range from living far away from the equator, to age and family history.
Treatments for the condition include medications, cognitive behavioral therapy and vitamin D and light therapy.
Allen said depression can manifest in different ways, causing a variety of symptoms. It is best to seek help when there is a disruption of quality of life, poor performance at work or school, an increase in absences from work or school and changes in appetite or mood.
“So really what we always do is kind of look at their condition and how that is impacting them just in their overall functioning,” Allen said.
Allen said the organization, which was established in Medina County in 1989, treats individuals experiencing a variety of both mental health and substance abuse issues.
Conditions Alternative Paths address include major depression, anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and grief and relational issues, Allen said.
Allen said Alternative Paths is a provider of the Medina County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board, which allows it to provide services to those in the county that may not be able to afford treatment.
“What that means simply is we receive funding contractually as a provider to help individuals that would benefit from behavioral health care services and have no means to pay,” he said.
“We have a sliding-fee scale and it is based on income and number of individuals in the household.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD can be complicated by other mental health conditions such as anxiety and eating disorders.
For questions regarding treatment or care, individuals can contact the 24-hour crisis and behavioral health hotline at (330) 725-9195.