738: SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER

“No winter lasts forever. No spring skips its turn.—Anonymous

seasonal affective disorder

Disclaimer: This episode is not intended as medical advice. If you are concerned about Seasonal Affective Disorder or any other mental health concern, please seek the help and advice of a medical professional. A mental health professional may diagnose SAD after a careful mental health exam and medical history review.

The winter months—with shorter days, less sunlight, and colder weather—can affect your mood and, therefore, your marriage.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs around the same time each year.

Symptoms of SAD can include fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal. This often occurs in climates where there is less sunlight at certain times.

Some 58% of the ONE Family shared that either they or their spouse deal with this. That’s a significant percentage.

Many of you may not have an official diagnosis of SAD, but you recognize that things feel a little off during winter.

The shift to winter can affect anyone, so it’s essential to know about seasonal affective disorder.

Because if something affects you, it will affect your marriage.

Although the specific causes of seasonal affective disorder remain unknown, there are three primary factors that may play a role.

First, a reduced level of sunlight in the fall and winter months can affect your biological clock (circadian rhythm). This disruption of your body’s internal clock can lead to feelings of depression.

Second, a reduced level of sunlight can lower your serotonin, a brain chemical that affects your mood. When your serotonin levels drop, it may trigger depression.

Third, the changing seasons can disrupt your body’s levels of melatonin, which plays a role in mood and sleep patterns.

Members of the ONE Family have experienced the effect of these physiological changes on their marriages.

SAD can affects your emotional intimacy because you feel grumpy and on edge. It can limit your recreational intimacy because you don’t feel like doing anything.

When your spouse is dealing with SAD, you may feel you have to carry the load or walk on eggshells around them. As a result, you feel disconnected.

Clearly, SAD has very real effects on marriage.

But when you can anticipate how SAD may affect you and your marriage, you can take proactive steps to keep your marriage strong.

For example, you can take more walks together to get outside and get moving. It may be helpful to attend counseling or therapy to work through your emotions. You might prioritize exercise more.

Even just recognizing when you might experience lower moods and verbalizing that to your spouse can help keep you connected throughout the season.

Or perhaps you need to plan a trip to a sunnier destination to boost your mood and strengthen your recreational intimacy.

If your sexual intimacy weakens in the winter months due to SAD, try mixing up your routine with edging, new sex positions, or sex pillows and wedges.

Use The 6 Pillars of Intimacy® as a framework to navigate this season. Assess which pillars you need to prioritize and develop ideas for how to take action. Counseling, phototherapy, and exercise are three areas you may want to consider.

Knowing the rhythms of your marriage can help you be proactive and prepare for harder months.

If you know that you or your spouse struggle with SAD, you don’t have to fall into the same patterns of conflict or depression each year.

Talk with your spouse about the actions you can take alone and together to improve your mental health and keep your marriage strong.

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