This time of year is hard for a lot of people because of fewer daylight hours and less exposure to sun in general. This lack of natural daylight in the winter season sometimes causes people to have symptoms of depression. This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. The main difference between clinical depression and SAD is that SAD is recurring every winter season, but lifts as the spring and summer come when there is much more sunlight. It’s also possible to experience SAD during the summer or another season, but it’s most common in the winter. The depressive symptoms that come with SAD can be attributed to brain chemistry and the over-production of melatonin during these shorter days. The further you are located from the equator, the higher risk there is to have SAD since there is less sunlight. Symptoms can include cravings for carbs, weight gain, laziness, fatigue, and social withdrawal.
I have been diagnosed with clinical depression, so I experience symptoms of depression year-round. My symptoms, however, tend to be much more difficult to fight off during the winter months. I would definitely contribute this to the weather and daylight savings. It gets dark so early and is usually very cold and overcast outside. If you’re like me, you don’t really want to stand out in the cold to soak up the sun, and a lot of days are overcast anyway. There are fewer outdoor activities during the winter as well.
One treatment for SAD is Light Therapy. It is amazing what bundling up and taking a hike during the daylight hours can do to help you start feeling better. If you don’t want to be in the cold, there are various light therapy lamps you can buy. Studies have proven that exposure to these lamps every day for 30 to 90 minutes can greatly help fight the symptoms of SAD. Another option is psychotherapy. Talking with someone about how you are feeling can help you determine your symptoms and work through how you can possibly fix them. Talk therapy can also help you determine if you do have depression, SAD, or if it’s just a case of the winter blues triggered by a specific event. If you are feeling extreme symptoms, you could talk to a therapist about the possibility of going on a minor antidepressant, even if it is just until the winter season is over. If you are experiencing these symptoms, don’t just tell yourself it will get better. Ignoring your own instincts and feelings is the worst thing you can do for your mental health.