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Winter weather can take its toll on moods

January 07, 2003|by ASHLEY GORDON

ashleyg@herald-mail.com

TRI-STATE - Winter brings cold weather, shorter days and, for some people, depression, according to a local psychiatrist.

The shorter days mean less light according to Dr. Jude Boyer, a Hagerstown psychiatrist. This reduced amount of light can cause depression and even an illness called seasonal affective disorder, she said.

"Many people notice that they feel more depressed beginning in November," Boyer said. "But this depression can be avoided."

Symptoms of depression include fatigue, oversleeping, overeating and withdrawal from social interaction, Boyer said.

Some cases can be corrected by mild antidepressants, the use of special full-spectrum lights that imitate sunlight, or increased exercise and activity, she said.

Not everyone suffers from the reduced light of winter and many people find ways to entertain themselves during the cold winter months.

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"You have to keep yourself busy," said Deb DeMine, 40, of Williamsport, when asked what she does to avoid winter depression.

"Stay active and have a sense of humor for everything," she advised.

Aside from her job, DeMine said she also stays busy volunteering for the PTA and her church, and is a Band Booster for her son Kevin and daughter Alex's school bands.

She also suggested taking advantage of being indoors by working on house projects, such as cleaning out closets, that usually are set aside in the warmer seasons.

For some, the winter season means spending a lot of time indoors.

Mike Bennett, 27, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., said he experiences winter boredom and prefers the summer because he loves outdoor sports. He said, however, he appreciates the extra time he has at home in the winter to play with his 2-year-old son.

Rather than falling victim to cabin fever, some people go to local malls to walk around.

Nelly Dowler, 73, of Hagerstown, said she enjoys a weekly shopping trip with her granddaughter Shauna Maietta, 20.

When she isn't shopping, Dowler said she crochets or watches horror movies on television.

Although he's retired as an antiques dealer, Louis Clydesdale, 69, of Hagerstown, said he still goes antique hunting to get out of the house. He said he also enjoys visiting with his four grandchildren and going to church.

Some find creative ways of getting outdoors.

Daniel Thompson, 18, and Joshua Palmer, 16, both of Hagerstown, said they repair four-wheel motorcycles and ride them with their friends in the snow.

Some people avoid the winter season by escaping to warmer climates. Karen Ridenour, of Frostburg, Md., said she bought a house in Las Vegas and goes there with her family to escape the winter weather.

If you can't travel to escape winter, Boyer said keeping busy is important. She recommended regular exercise, specifically "aerobic exercise, which regulates the level of endorphins your body produces," which helps regulate moods.

She said that craving carbohydrates is one symptom of wintertime depression, and recommended that people "avoid fast food, and favor healthier food options to ease these cravings."

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