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Erectile Dysfunction Radio Podcast
Today we are talking about Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and the winter blues. This episode of the Erectile Dysfunction Radio Podcast is about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Do you know what Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is? Did you know that it can have a negative impact on a man’s erection? Learn about the connection between erectile dysfunction and SAD on today’s episode.
The ED Radio Podcast is dedicated to educating and empowering men to address erectile dysfunction, improve confidence, and enhance the satisfaction in their relationships. This podcast is hosted by certified sex therapist, Mark Goldberg, LCMFT, CST.
Transcript of Episode 13 – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Erectile Dysfunction
Today we are talking about Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and the winter blues. The fall and winter seasons can be beautiful with changing colors of foliage, pumpkin spice, candy canes, holidays, and family gatherings. For a lot of people, there are things to look forward to and enjoy that make the fall and winter fun and nostalgic. But it is not the most wonderful time of the year for many people.
The decreased daylight hours and cold weather can make it depressing and sad. For people with general mental health challenges, symptoms can become more pronounced during this time. For others, this time period can usher in the onset of depressive symptoms.
We have mentioned in previous episodes the difference between symptoms and diagnoses. A person can have symptoms of a condition, but not qualify for an actual diagnosis, and those symptoms alone can impact the erection process.
The winter blue symptoms that can impact erectile function can also develop into, and be indicative of, a more serious condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition in which a person experiences depression that is triggered by a particular time of year. Most commonly, this happens in the fall and winter months and resolves itself in the spring.
Less often, some people experience symptoms in the spring and summer that resolve in the fall. One of the hallmarks of Seasonal Affective Disorder is that the condition is self-resolving with the change of seasons.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, as the acronym indicates, usually occurs over multiple years and is unlikely to be a one-off event. It is also important to note that SAD is a sub-type of depression. In order to be diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a person needs to meet the criteria for depression, but let’s move away from the clinical jargon for a moment to talk about what this most commonly looks like.
People talk about hibernating in the winter. Clearly, we are not bears. But the image is a good way to conceptualize the specific depressive features that are common with winter Seasonal Affective Disorder. This includes hypersomnia, or a noticeable increase in sleep, lower energy, increased food consumption, and social isolation.
Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, as is true for depression in general. More relative to our discussion, is that Seasonal Affective Disorder tends to affect younger adults at significantly higher rates than it affects older adults.
So, why is Seasonal Affective Disorder different than depression with regard to erectile dysfunction? Seasonal impacts can be very tricky. While many people will not qualify for the diagnosis, they may be negatively impacted by changing seasons.
In my opinion, far more people are impacted by changes in seasons than are actually diagnosed with this condition. In the episode on mental health, we emphasize that your brain and erection process do not care whether you qualify for a diagnosis or not. Some symptoms or signs can be more than enough to have an impact on erections.
What makes winter symptoms challenging is that it is often hard to notice them.
We all have days, or even weeks, when our mood can dip. It’s normal to feel down at times. The timing of when we feel down is often only a factor and the dip in our mood is easily attributed to other causes. This makes identifying a seasonal component even more difficult.
For people who live with chronic symptoms of depression or are prone to experiencing them throughout the year, identifying the onset and the triggers may be easier. We cover more thoroughly in the episode on depression how exactly depression impacts a erectile function or contributes to erectile dysfunction, but I want to quickly just review those components.
Erections require an engaged mind focused on pleasure. Some of the primary symptoms of depression include feeling not worthy, anhedonia, which is the loss of pleasure, lack of energy, and tiredness.
Among other things, erections take energy, a desire for pleasure, and a belief that you are worthy of it.
So how specifically does Seasonal Affective Disorder impact erectile dysfunction? Like general depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder impacts energy, sleep, and pleasure. Erections take energy and you have to be able to enjoy or want to enjoy to have an optimal erection environment.
Seasonal onset of depressive symptoms are far more common than an actual diagnosis. They can often be missed. Men may experience erectile dysfunction at a higher frequency in the winter months.
This would likely coincide with a decrease in sexual desire or interest. Because the seasons come and go, symptoms have a way of resolving themselves and erections can improve with the same pattern. Some men will ignore erection changes that occur with the changing of seasons, while others may find the experience alarming and have anxiety that carries over in a more sustained type of way.
Now, here’s where this gets complicated. With regard to winter symptoms and erectile dysfunction, this can, in some ways, be harder than having consistent depressive symptoms. When someone experiences consistent symptoms, while unwanted and uncomfortable, they can more easily recognize what is happening and be prepared to address these challenges.
When unfamiliar symptoms seem to come and go, a man is less likely to recognize what is happening, start to panic, and compound the erectile dysfunction.
I can’t mention this enough, erectile dysfunction is multifactorial. The winter blues and depressive symptoms may coincide with a number of other factors. It is possible that your partner is experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, and this can make sexual engagement less appealing or inviting.
Feeling unwanted by a partner can negatively impact your erection process. As we mentioned earlier, women are more likely to be diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, and if your partner is experiencing these symptoms or other changes during the winter months, it is important to be sensitive to them while understanding that this is likely not about you.
Now, at no point should a man conclude that he has Seasonal Affective Disorder because he is experiencing erectile dysfunction. Winter blues may be a factor in the erection process, and they should be addressed.
How is Seasonal Affective Disorder treated? The treatment is somewhat similar to general depression. There are medications that help regulate depressive symptoms that you can talk to your prescriber about. Men can also seek talk therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, an evidence-based practice proven to be effective in treating depression.
One unique treatment option for Seasonal Affective Disorder is light therapy.
Light therapy is a passive treatment in which a person sits in front of a specially designed light box for a set period of time each day. The mechanisms of how this works are beyond the scope of this episode, but it is important to know that this is an effective treatment for many people.
If you experience a noticeable change in erections around this time of year, you may be impacted by the seasons. If you notice changes in mood, decreased sexual interest or desire, and a more broad tendency to hibernate during the winter months, you, and more specifically your erection process, may be impacted by this. Tending to your mental health can make a real difference.
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