Allison Fine - Counseling for Inner Balance
About Allison

I provide counseling to the greater Seattle area. I have counseled individuals from all walks of life.

As a counselor, my role is to help you define what you want to accomplish during our sessions and help you understand how to reach your goals.

I seek to create a safe, trusting, and open environment in our sessions. I work from a variety of therapy models to individualize our work together.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder: Don't Let the Gloom Get You Down this Winter

With the beautiful Seattle summer we have been having, it is difficult to imagine cloudier, rainier days.  The rainy Seattle season is coming, however, and with these clouds in the sky often comes cloudiness in our minds.  Some individuals struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) more popularly known as Seasonal Depression. Because individuals with MS often struggle with depression as a result of having a chronic illness, they may be more susceptible to having more down periods in the winter.  It is good to know what Season Affective Disorder is, how it may affect you, and what you can do to fight it off this winter and for rainy seasons to come. 

Feeling Gloomy?

According to the Mayo clinic, seasonal affective disorder can display itself in a variety of ways.  Individuals with the following symptoms noted for consecutive winter seasons are often looked at as having SAD:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information

Anyone can be susceptible to seasonal depression, but women, individuals who have relatives with SAD, individuals between the ages of 15 and 55, and finally, individuals who live where the winter days are short or there are big changes in the amount of daylight in different seasons, are more likely to struggle with SAD throughout their life. 

Some individuals suffer from other types of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  One type is known as Spring and Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder, which affects individuals with symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, irritability, agitation, weight loss, poor appetite, and increased sex drive during the spring and summer seasons.  A second type, known as Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, is more rare and affects people with a mania-type symptoms rather than depression symptoms.  According to the Mayo clinic, some symptoms of Reverse SAD are persistently elevated mood, increased social activity, hyperactivity, and unbridled enthusiasm out of proportion to the situation.   

MS Depression or SAD?

As MSers, some of these symptoms for seasonal depression may start to convince you that you yourself are suffering from SAD.  It is important to remember that many symptoms of SAD overlap symptoms of MS.  Individuals with multiple sclerosis often go through spells of depression and anxiety after being diagnosed with this chronic illness.  Some MSers describe a roller coaster of emotions, as the emotional and cognitive symptoms of MS start to display themselves.  Due to some of the physical symptoms of MS, you may also start to lose interest in some activities you used to enjoy pre-MS.  If you start to wonder if you are struggling with an MS spell of depression or SAD, track how often you have these symptoms of depression.  If the symptoms only occur during a certain time of the year, for a few years in a row, you may likely be experiencing SAD.  If the depression symptoms appear after an exacerbation, you are newly diagnosed, or you have had to make an adaptation because of new physical limitations with your MS, you may be experiencing depression as a result of your MS.  Often, too, it helps to look at which came first, the depression or the MS.  No matter what is the cause of your depression symptoms it is important to talk to your doctor if the symptoms are interfering with your daily life.       

What Can I Do?

Many treatments exist to help individuals manage symptoms of SAD.  As an individual with MS, it is always important to consider what can “I” do, and how can I adapt the things I am currently unable to do, to make them more fit for the “me” with MS.  Some of the coping skills for managing Seasonal Affective Disorder include daily exercise, managing your stress levels, bringing more light into your home, staying busy with enjoyable activities (even on the gloomiest of days), getting enough rest, and paying attention to your diet.  A popular treatment for fighting off symptoms of SAD is light therapy.  Light therapy involves sitting under a SAD light or near a light box for a period of time each day.  Talk with your doctor if you are considering this option to learn more about the therapy.  Finally, if possible take a trip to a sunnier location during the darker season.  Changing your environment from a rainy one to a sunnier one can help to put an upswing on your winter blues.  And again, make sure to consider how making these lifestyle changes to manage SAD will affect your MS. 

Doctor, Doctor!

Although there are many things you can do on your own to manage symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, the symptoms may become more complicated than you can handle.  You should contact your doctor immediately if you are feeling hopeless or having thoughts of suicide.  If you feel that the SAD symptoms are becoming more than you can handle, consult both with your primary care physician and your MS doctor to get their ideas on what can help you feel better.  Some doctors prescribe antidepressants to help patients manage symptoms.  It also may help to consider talking with a counselor if you are experiencing symptoms of SAD. 

Going through up and down periods is a normal part of life that every human experiences.  Remember that you may have a day or two where you feel depressed, but quickly bounce back out of it, functioning as you always did in your every day life.  Seasonal depression cannot be prevented, but if you pay attention to your symptoms early on, you can prevent them from getting worse over time.  Paying attention to your depression symptoms, how long they last, and what time of year they happen will help you take better care of yourself and your MS.  Being aware of how these symptoms affect your every day life and doing things to prevent the symptoms from getting worse can help you stay cheerful this gloomy season and hopefully for rainy seasons to come.

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