The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that can happen in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) during the winter months. COPD and seasonal affective disorder can have a compounding effect on feelings of sadness, loneliness, hopelessness and the sensation of worsening COPD symptoms. Here are some steps to cope with COPD and seasonal affective disorder, so you can enjoy every season.
What is seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons, and it usually begins and ends around the same times every year. For most people, SAD symptoms begin in the fall and continue through the winter. It drains people of their energy and makes them feel moody, irritable and causes appetite changes.
It is thought that the reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset seasonal affective disorder. The decrease in sunlight may disrupt the body’s natural, internal clock, which can lead to feelings of depression.
Is there a difference between seasonal affective disorder and major depression?
Seasonal affective disorder is a subtype of major depression, so some symptoms of major depression may accompany SAD. As with any type of depression, it’s important to take SAD and its symptoms seriously. The cause of SAD remains unknown, but factors such as your biological clock, serotonin levels and melatonin levels are believed to play a role.
Symptoms of major depression that may accompany SAD include:
- Feeling depressed most of the day
- Feeling depressed almost daily
- Having low energy
- Experiencing problems with sleep
- Losing interest in activities you enjoy
- Feeling hopeless or worthless
- Having thoughts of death or suicide
Having some days when you feel down is normal. However, if you feel down for multiple days at a time and don’t feel motivated to do activities you typically enjoy, see your doctor and ask for help. Your doctor will be able to help you and will likely recommend seeing a licensed mental health professional. Talking to a trained mental health counselor can give you objective advice and can teach tools and techniques for coping.
What are some steps to cope with COPD and seasonal affective disorder?
COPD and depression often occur together because COPD has serious and sometimes frightening symptoms. Living with COPD has many challenges on the body and the mind, so it’s completely understandable to feel afraid, worried or anxious. However, it’s very important to learn ways to cope with these symptoms of depression, so you can feel better and enjoy your life.
Sometimes, it’s hard for people with COPD to go places outside of their homes, making them feel isolated. Breathlessness, coughing fits and fatigue make it challenging to feel motivated to go to dinner or to a party. When the weather worsens and gets colder, going outside with COPD can become nearly impossible, furthering loneliness.
You can’t change the weather, but here are some steps to cope with COPD and seasonal affective disorder:
- Bring in some sunshine. Keep your home bright by opening the blinds or curtains.
- Switch out old light bulbs with new ones. As bulbs age, they become dim. Changing them will brighten your home.
- Take your exercise routine indoors. Walking around the inside of your home helps combat SAD and COPD while improving strength and stamina. Consider walking into each room of your home and looking for birds outside your windows.
- Go outside on mild, sunny days. Recharge your batteries with sunshine, fresh air and nature during good weather and mild temperatures.
- Talk with your doctor. Along with seeing a counselor, your doctor may recommend certain medications or even photo-therapy, which is a light box that mimics sunshine.
- Invite friends to your house. Coffee or tea is easy to prepare and a great way to warm you up, so ask a friend to come over for a visit.
Staying healthier year-round
With these tips for COPD and seasonal affective disorder, you’ll be able to tackle the winter blues. Along with taking care of your mental health, it’s important to stay on track with your COPD treatment plan and to see your doctor regularly. If you notice a change in your COPD symptoms, overall health, mental health or pulmonary condition, call your doctor.
Many people with COPD find it beneficial to add stem cell treatment to their COPD treatment plan. Stem cell therapy works to promote healing from within the lungs and has the potential to improve quality of life. If you or a loved one has COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about stem cell treatment options, contact us at (800) 729-3065.