When the days begin to get shorter and those few daylight hours are overcast and gray, many people feel their moods begin to dip. Winter blues are common, but if the change in seasons is causing sadness or depression that you can’t seem to shake, you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. What are the causes, symptoms, and treatment for SAD? Let’s take a closer look.
What are the signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
- Feeling sad or depressed most of the day, and nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities and things you usually enjoy
- Having low or no energy
- Having problems with falling asleep or staying asleep
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or easily agitated
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of hopelessness or of being worthless
- Thoughts of death or suicide
What Causes Winter Blues?
Changes in weather and reduced sunlight can affect the body’s circadian rhythm, serotonin levels, and melatonin levels which all affect a person’s moods. Like other forms of depression, SAD can range from mild to severe.
What is the Treatment for Seasonal Depression?
If you begin to notice the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, the best thing to do is speak with your family doctor to get treatment options. Women should be especially aware of any mood changes during fall and winter, as they are more likely to suffer from SAD than men. Treatments can include light therapy, psychotherapy, meditation, exercise, or medication. As sunset gets earlier and the temperatures drop, it is important to take care of yourself by discussing how you feel with your family doctor, seeing a therapist, taking up yoga or meditation, spending time with family and friends, and taking antidepressant medications, if necessary.