Often called the “winter blues,” Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depressive disorder influenced by seasonal changes.
Do you live in a state that has more cloudy days in winter, with the sun rarely shining? Or does the sun set earlier than you’d like in the winter months? Either scenario blankets the day with longer stretches of dark and cold. This can put us at risk of experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as the “winter blues.”
WHAT IS SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER?
Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a type of depressive disorder influenced by seasonal changes.
SAD symptoms tend to appear in the late fall and subside once the sun is out more and our days become warmer in the late spring.
Symptoms of SAD:
- Changes in mood during the darker, winter months
- Lethargic and oversleeping
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Trouble concentrating
- Overeating (often with a focus on carbohydrates)
- Hopelessness or even suicidal ideation
We don’t know exactly why this occurs. Experts believe it has to do with reduced sunlight. When sunlight is reduced, this can drop serotonin levels and disrupt your circadian rhythm, drastically disrupting your sleep schedule. Both can result in feelings of depression.
Interestingly, Seasonal Affective Disorder can occur in the summertime too.
WHO DOES SAD IMPACT?
Anyone can experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, young adults (18-30) tend to experience it more often, and women are diagnosed with SAD four times more than men according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Individuals with pre-existing mood disorders such as bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder are more prone to experiencing SAD during weather changes. Additionally, those who live farther from the equator with have less exposure to the sun are more likely to experience SAD than those close to the equator.
HOW IS SAD DIFFERENT FROM DEPRESSION?
As stated above, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a subset of major depression. SAD is brought on with changes of the seasons as well as other stressors associated with the timeframe. However, not all depressive episodes during winter can automatically be attributed to SAD.
This is why it’s important to meet with a mental health professional to receive a proper diagnosis and move towards treatment.
TREATMENT AND MANAGEMENT OPTIONS FOR SAD:
Even though SAD has a “time frame” in which it is estimated to begin and end, i.e. the return of warmer and sunnier days, this does not mean those who are affected should suffer in silence until things become better. The symptoms are very real and treatable with professional assistance.
Some treatment options for Seasonal Affective Disorder may be:
- Light therapy (phototherapy)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Vitamin D supplements
- Anti-depressant medication
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, and are having thoughts of harming yourself, please call Colorado Crisis Services at 1.844.493.8255 or the 24-hour Suicide & Crisis hotline at 988.
CONTACT CREATIVE COUNSELING CENTER
Have you been struggling this winter? Do you recognize a pattern for the time of year these depressive episodes occur? We have a team of experienced therapists you can speak with about potential treatment plan options. Just complete the brief form below to request a FREE phone consultation. One of our team members will reach out to learn more about your situation and discuss whether Creative Counseling Center is a good fit for your needs. We hope to hear from you soon.