GOT A CASE OF THE WINTER BLUES? IT MAY BE SEASONAL DEPRESSION
Now that the holiday hubbub has wound down, you may feel a bit of a letdown. The festivities are over, but the winter months still stretch before you. You could find that you’re missing the long days and bright sunshine of summer. You might even feel a little moodier than usual.
For many, it’s just a matter of feeling a little out of sorts. But for some, winter brings months of depression. They only start to feel better when spring returns. If that is true for you, you may have a type of seasonal depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
Most people experience SAD during the fall and winter. But for some, SAD hits during the spring and summer. Symptoms differ, depending on the season. In the winter, you may feel tired, sluggish, and depressed. You may find yourself sleeping more and eating more. Weight gain is common. In the summer, you may feel anxious, jittery, and depressed. You may have trouble sleeping, and you may eat less and lose weight.
About 5 percent of people in the United States have SAD. But another 10% to 20% may experience a mild form. It is more common in adults than children, and it affects more women than men. For those who live in northern areas of the country, it is more common to experience SAD in the fall and winter.
It’s not quite clear what causes SAD, but seasonal shifts in sunlight exposure may be a factor. The sun triggers changes in the body, such as the release of hormones, which can affect your mood, behavior, and your sleep-wake patterns.
The good news? There are ways to help treat or ease the symptoms of SAD, including:
- Light therapy. This treatment involves spending time each day bathed in bright light from a special light box. This may help improve your mood.
- Medicine. If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may suggest an antidepressant to ease symptoms.
- Talk therapy. Talking with a therapist may help you manage stress and think in more positive ways. It may also help you avoid unhealthy coping behaviors.
- Healthy habits. Spend time outside in the sun. Open blinds and curtains to let in more light. And get regular exercise. These habits may all help decrease symptoms.
Do you feel you may have SAD? Talk with your doctor. He or she will likely ask about your symptoms and may run some tests to rule out other health problems. And, if you do have SAD, you doctor can help figure out the right treatment for you. NOTE: Light therapy and antidepressants may have negative side effects for those with bipolar disorder. So tell your doctor if you have or think you might have bipolar disorder.
You don’t have to feel depressed for months at a time, year after year. Help is available.