Seasonal Affective Disorder: How Winter Could Be Affecting Your Mood

seasonal affective disorder

The summer brings the heat and lots of sunshine. When winter hits, it can be hard to keep our moods up when the days are shorter and the weather is colder. According to Mayo Clinic, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a depression that is related to the changing of seasons. Do you think the change in seasons could be affecting your mental health? Read more about the symptoms of SAD and how we can work together to find a treatment plan that will be the best for you. 

Tan lines and sunshine, pool days and vacation time: summertime can be one of the happiest times of the year for many people. Whether it’s finally taking that trip you’ve planed for months or spending time out by the pool, there’s just something about being in the sunshine that helps boost your mood. When the weather transitions from summer to fall, you know winter isn’t far behind. The days get shorter, and with the loss of daylight sometimes we can feel more down and depressed. When is it winter blues or something more serious, like seasonal affective disorder? 

Winter Blues vs. SAD 

Many people will experience the winter blues in some way, shape, or form. When the days go dark much sooner and you don’t get much sunshine, your mood can be affected. With the winter blues, you may just be feeling more sluggish or a little gloomy, however it doesn’t interfere much with your day-to-day life and obligations. However, if you find that each year when winter rolls around, you become unable to contribute as you normally would to work, school, or even your relationships, it could be seasonal affective disorder. 

Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that is seasonal where people experience symptoms similar to depression, but they only appear during fall and winter months when the days are shorter and there’s less sunlight. People who suffer from SAD will usually see relief when spring begins. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the most difficult months for people experience SAD is January and February. They list the common symptoms of SAD to be: 

  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite; usually eating more
  • Change in sleep patterns; sleeping too much 
  • Increased fatigue, loss of energy
  • Feeling worthless/guilty 
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions 
  • Increased restless activity 
  • Thoughts of death 

According to Rush University, 6% of Americans will experience SAD on average which is less than the 14% of Americans that will experience winter blues. However, it more commonly affects people in northern climates where it gets more cold than it does in the south. With all of that being said, women and young adults 18-30 are also more likely to suffer from seasonal affective disorder. 

What Can You Do For SAD?

Thankfully, SAD can be treated in several ways. Though with SAD symptoms typically improve when the seasons change, you could find more quick relief with treatment. On your own, you can try:

  • Exposing yourself to more sunlight by opening windows or spending extra time outside
  • Regular exercise and sticking to a fitness routine
  • Getting enough sleep each night, ideally at least 8 hours 
  • Eating a healthy diet to help support your body
  • Staying social with friends and family 

If you think that you require more help for SAD, you have other options with the help of a doctor, like: 

  • Light therapy – light therapy involves sitting in front of a box that shines very bright light without UV rays. When used for at least 20 minutes a day, most people see improvement within a week or two. For this to be the most beneficial, it should be used everyday through the winter months. For preventative measures, some people find starting light therapy in early fall can help delay or even prevent symptoms. 
  • Cognitive behavior therapy – this type of therapy, also known as talk therapy, is a goal-oriented therapy where you work with a mental health counselor to identify negative thoughts and behaviors to respond to situations more clearly. 

Don’t ignore your symptoms if you think you’re experiencing SAD, even if they’re mild. Oftentimes, people with seasonal affective disorder will go to the doctor because they’re not feeling well (becoming easily tired, not feeling like their normal selves). Your doctor can do blood tests to make sure it’s not caused by something else before recommending treatment for SAD. 

Get Help With Balanced Well-Being Healthcare

At Balanced Well-Being Healthcare, we want to help you feel your best all year long. We focus on health maintenance and prevention, and will treat you as a whole person rather than just treat your current symptoms. Though there is no cure-all solution for seasonal affective disorder or depression, we can help find the remedy that works best for you and the life you want to lead. Call us today for more information and to get the help you need: (970)-631-8286.