Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services press release:

The holidays are a time for family and friends to gather in celebration. But for many people, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can put a damper on holiday cheer.

SAD is a recognized depressive disorder believed to affect between 1 and 9 percent of the population, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It’s a Major Depressive disorder with a “seasonal pattern.” It generally begins in the fall and ends at the close of winter when sunny days return.

Cloudy days and intermittent showers mean that many residents are spending more time indoors and receiving less sunlight when venturing out. “Although many of us love the mist and coolness of Humboldt County, for people who relocate here from a warmer and brighter climate, the change of environment can be stressful,” says Department of Health & Human Services Mental Health Clinician Mark Lamers.

Sufferers can experience fatigue and moodiness. Most frustrating, that seasonal funk might come when things should be happiest. Going through SAD days can involve lost interest in previously enjoyable activities such as family gatherings and parties.

“It’s important to talk about any serious changes in mood with a primary care physician or mental health clinician, who can discuss options for treatment ranging from medication to the use of bright, visible spectrum lights,” Lamers says. He added that an exercise regime of at least 20 minutes a day can help maintain a feeling of well being and a positive mood.

“Like other depressive disorders, it’s really important to recognize that SAD is treatable, and that it is not necessary to just endure this pattern of loss of function with the changing of the seasons,” Lamers said. All North Coast residents should be able to experience the full joy of the holidays.