Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Issue in Iowa?

By Chris Earl, Reporter


By Chris Earl

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Another week of winter brings another snow fall.

Another round of shoveling sidewalks and driveways.

Another snow day for some school districts.

The winter of 2012-13 will never be mistaken for some sub-arctic stretch, full of wind chills that are -40.

Yet this winter has been consistent. It has been wet. Many days, very gray and drab outside. Day after day after day.

Seasonal affective disorder, known as "SAD", was formally coined back in 1984. Initially met with a dose of skepticism, many health care providers recognize this as a common disorder.

The basic idea is this. During these stretches of cold weather, a person just wants to sleep 12 hours a day.

And eat bagels.

"A little more irritability, a little bit more sadness, less energy, increased need for sleep, increased appetite, especially for carbohydrates," said Jamie Smith, a nurse practitioner with Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids. "It goes a little more beyond the 'winter blues' but, yes, it is a disorder."

Smith said people should be aware in case of a lower mood and a higher appetite during these winter months and keeping a "set routing", such as the appropriate diet and trying to maintain exercise are critical in combating this.

Vitamin D and specialized light box kits are often recommended for people who may be feeling the negative effects of winter's cold gaze. Smith said people should use caution when considering any steps further than tracking daily diet and exercise.

"I think people are a little bit more aware of the symptoms and talking to their providers a little bit more," said Smith. "Once the holidays and the hype of the holidays settle down, we do get more calls."

Bob De Camp, of Cedar Rapids, appeared to have his winter survival checklist in check. He lives on the city's northeast side and is often seen, walking briskly on the sidewalks, whether ice covers the concrete or not.

"Unless it's real icy, 12 months out of the year, I walk," said De Camp, who has lived in his neighborhood for 40 years. "3.1 miles. I just like being outside and walking three miles is a good walk."

Others merely hop on a large bird to migrate to warmer climates.

"Warm weather, shorts, get all tan and I'm ready to go with my sandals. I can't wait!" said Nathan Miller, of Marion, after checking in for his Las Vegas-bound flight on Wednesday afternoon at the Eastern Iowa Airport.

Of course, many college students have been escaping the long and harsh winters for decades. Spring break for the University of Iowa students is about ten days away.

"Last year, it was kind of mild but this year has been much colder," said Casey O'Brien, a UI senior counting the days until she is in The Bahamas.

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