Many people feel down in the winter. There’s less daylight, it’s colder and we tend to spend less time outdoors which are all contributing factors. Plus, the stress of the holiday season can be difficult for many people to cope with. While all of this can be perfectly normal, if you have these feelings year after year and you find that they’re severe enough that you find yourself having difficulty functioning, you could have a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Here’s what you need to know:
- OVERVIEW & SYMPTOMS: Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year, particularly in winter. In most people, the symptoms start in the fall and continue through the winter months. It’s important to recognize the signs of winter depression. There is a difference between “feeling blue” occasionally and suffering from depression. Key symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include difficulty concentrating, low energy, losing interest in previously enjoyable activities, irritability, appetite changes, weight gain, tiredness, thoughts of death or suicide, hypersensitivity to rejection, difficulty getting along with others, a “heavy” feeling in your arms or legs, changes in sleep patterns and feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. Keep in mind that you will not necessarily experience all of these symptoms. While it’s normal to have some days where you feel down, if you start to feel very down for a long period of time and cannot improve your mood, even by taking part in activities that you once enjoyed, you should speak with your doctor.
- POTENTIAL CAUSES: The specific causes are not known, however, certain factors may lead to this type of depression. A decrease in sunlight can disrupt your body’s internal clock. This could cause you to experience feelings of depression. In addition, reduced sunlight can cause a decrease in serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in your brain that affects mood. This decrease could trigger feelings of depression. Also, in the winter, your body’s level of melatonin can be disrupted, which could affect your sleep as well as your mood.
- RISK FACTORS: Anyone can experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, some are particularly susceptible. While SAD is diagnosed more often in women, men report having more severe symptoms. Younger people have a higher risk of winter depression as do those with a family history of depression. Also, those who live farther from the equator have a greater chance of feeling winter depression. This is because there is less sunlight and longer periods of darkness during the winter months.
- TREATMENT: There are several treatments for SAD. You should speak to your doctor about treatments and discuss which ones may work for you. Treatments include light therapy, medication and psychotherapy. Depending on your particular situation, one or more of these treatments may be suggested for you.
If you’re having difficulty functioning and think you might be suffering from SAD, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. Remember, at Physiomed…Healthier Starts Here.