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Winter weather can take a psychological toll

SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) — This winter, south central Wisconsin has seen at least half a dozen snow storms, a historic cold snap, and there’s still a chance for more on the way. In the wake of this relentless weather, doctors say it could take a emotional toll.

As Sun Prairie dug out from their most recent storm Wednesday, shovelers like Vicki Lipka had their share of frustration.

“I think I have enough,” she said in her driveway surrounded with five foot snow piles. “Try throwing snow up over that, that gets a little rough.”

As that snow piles up, Dr. Diana Flint, a Family Medicine Doctor with SSM Health, said a lot of people across Wisconsin may be feeling a psychological impact.

“A lot of people are affected in general because they feel more confined in their house because they aren’t able to go outside as much,” she said.

Dr. Flint said that’s especially true for anyone already struggling with their mental health.

“Those people with depression often have a little bit of worsening of their symptoms due to the changes in temperature and the decreased light,” she said.

At its worst, these gloomy conditions can manifest in seasonal affective disorder. The condition comes with many of the same symptoms as depression, along with a few of its own.

“Increase in fatigue, increase in cravings for carbohydrates, increase in weight gain and a decreased interest to do your usual activities,” Dr. Flint listed.

Seasonal affective disorder already impacts five percent of the country but Dr. Flint said it’s even more common in northern states like Wisconsin.

Fortunately, the best medicine is widely available.

“Our main treatment is really to be outside when its sunny,” she said.

In serious cases, Dr. Flint said they can prescribe medicine or suggest glow lamps as treatment indoors but for most, the natural sunshine is enough to brighten the mood.

Chris Watkins

Social Media & Digital Content Manager

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