This season can take a toll on not only one’s physical health, but their mental health, too.
With winter still well underway, Dr. Michael Brown of Tyler Memorial Hospital in Tunkhannock discussed seasonal affective disorder and the flu.
Seasonal affective disorder is typically related to the time of year and characterized by depression, Brown explained. It could occur during the winter or summer months, although in this part of the world, winter is more common.
“It’s related to a decrease in basically light. Shorter days, more time in darkness,” Brown said of the disorder. “There’s some relation to other mental health issues as well.”
Seasonal affective disorder has similar symptoms to different forms of depression, such as fatigue and hopelessness. However, it differs because the symptoms tend to resolve when the season in question is over, while other forms of depression are typically chronic.
Studies have shown that it tends to affect females more than males, and younger adults more than older adults, Brown said.
Just like with anything regarding mental health disorders, Brown said awareness is important because it could have negative effects on one’s life and potentially become severe.
“It could impact you socially, impact your work life, your home life, your overall well-being,” he said.
Treatments for seasonal affective disorder include typical antidepressants and cognitive therapy, Brown said, but light therapy is another common treatment that yields positive results.
For this treatment, individuals with seasonal affective disorder use a bright light source to give them excess light during daily activities like working at a desk or watching television.
“That excess light actually seems to help improve the symptoms,” Brown said.
With flu season still in full swing until the early spring as well, Brown is reminding people that it’s still not too late to receive a flu shot, which he said is the best protection against the virus.
Getting the vaccine can help reduce your risk of getting the flu, but can also help others around you, including those of which cannot receive vaccines.
“It can help reduce your risk of becoming a carrier of the flu, so if enough people have the vaccine around, it makes it harder for the flu virus to spread amongst the population,” Brown said.
“That’s true with all other vaccines as well,” he added.
There haven’t been many flu cases in Brown’s office this season, but he said he can’t speak for other offices in the area.
Commonwealth Health, which includesTyler Memorial, released a memo this month about visitation guidelines during the cold and flu season. The organization is asking people with symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and fever to refrain from visiting patients at Commonwealth Health hospitals to protect its patients.
Brown said the reasoning behind this is to prevent the spread of illnesses.
“Also, depending on what you have going on, too, if you have a simple cold, coming into the emergency room, you may expose yourself to something else,” he said. “So if those are the cases, it’s better to see a primary care doctor.”
If you’re showing symptoms of the flu, Brown said you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Some symptoms include fatigue, fever, congestion and nausea.
With the flu, treatments such as Tamiflu have to be given within a certain window of time.
“If you’re outside of that window or you’ve waited too long, at that point we just treat you symptomatically. We can’t give you the Tamiflu for it,” Brown said.
As for seasonal affective disorder, seeing a doctor should also be a priority. If it’s a recurrent issue, a doctor can help make plans to combat it before it starts early in the season.
“If you’re having symptoms of either one of them, call your doctor. Get yourself seen. Don’t try to put things off,” Brown said.