Seasonal Affective Disorder – More Than Just the Winter Blues

Fall is officially here. It is that pumpkin spice time of year, the weather is getting cooler, and the days are getting shorter. Many people find their mood changes as summer ends. According to the National Institute of Health, almost 20 percent of people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression. And, women are more likely than men to suffer from this condition. 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter. 

Living in sunny Florida doesn’t mean you can’t experience SAD. A main trigger for this depressive disorder is shorter days and longer nights. Shorter periods of sunlight in fall and winter can mess up your body’s internal clock—leaving you feeling sleepy, sad, anxious, tense, and depressed.

According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of SAD can include: 

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you normally like
  • Having low energy
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially craving foods high in carbohydrates
  • Feeling agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty

Self-Care Tips For SAD

If you feel you might have seasonal depression, there are some self-care tips that may help ease your anxiety: 

  • Exercise regularly to boost serotonin and endorphins which are ‘feel good’ chemicals that occur naturally in the brain.
  • Get out in the sunlight or brightly lit spaces, especially early in the day.
  • Spend time with family and friends. 
  • Eat healthy foods, and avoid overloading on things like cookies and candy.

Light therapy is also a common treatment for SAD. It replaces the missing daylight of winter by exposing you to bright light that is similar to natural outdoor light. 

The amount of time and how long you need to be exposed to light is different for each person so you’ll need guidance from your doctor or mental health professional to find what is level will help with your depression. 

With any mental health issue, it is important to know you aren’t alone. If you’re feeling depressed this winter, and if these feelings last for several weeks, talk to a health care provider. SAD isn’t something that should be blown off as just a case of the winter blues. A physician or mental health professional can help with diagnosis and find the treatment plan that works best for you. 

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