As the seasons change from fall to winter, many people find themselves experiencing symptoms of the “winter blues.” Prone to simply brush these symptoms off as just being in a “funk”, many people think they just have to “tough it out” and wait for the sun to shine more brightly again. What these people may be experiencing is a form of depression called “seasonal affective disorder“(SAD). In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.
Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression include:
- Tiredness or low energy
- Problems getting along with other people
- Hypersensitivity to rejection
- Heavy “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
- Oversleeping or having trouble sleeping
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
Experts believe that a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may depression.
Some of the factors that increase your risk of SAD include:
Being female Women experience SAD more than men, but the symptoms tend to be more severe in men.
Family History People with family members who suffer from depressive disorders are more likely to be affected by SAD.
Having previously been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder. Symptoms may get worse during the winter months.
Living far from the equator SAD appears to be more common in people who live far from the equator
Treatment can help prevent complications, especially if you seek treatment before your symptoms get bad. You can seek help from your family care provider. In addition, you can try the following:
Make your environment sunnier and brighter Open blinds and trim heavy tree branches away from windows.
Get Outside Even if you’re worried about the slick roads and sidewalks, you can sit on a bench at the park or on your porch.
Exercise regularly Exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety and it helps raise serotonin levels.
Take a trip Even if it’s not a trip to a sunnier climate, getting out of the house seems to help many people who suffer from SAD.