When Winter Days Are SAD

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder and Seasonal Depression
A girl surrounded by bad weather with a sad expression

The change in seasons can do more than alter the weather, it can also affect our mood. Starting in the fall and into the winter season, the days are shorter and usually less sunny. For some people, the change in season can be accompanied by a change in mood, known as seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that typically begins in the fall and lasts through the winter months. As the season progresses, the symptoms of SAD may worsen.

What Are the Symptoms of SAD?

  • Feeling listless, sad, or down most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Avoiding common tasks like grocery shopping or going to work
  • Having low energy and feeling sluggish
  • Having problems with sleeping too much
  • Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having thoughts of not wanting to live

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

While the exact cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder is not yet understood, biological factors may play a role. One factor relates to our circadian rhythm, or our internal body clock. The change in season can lead to changes in chemicals within our brain that help regulate our mood. In addition to biological factors, risk factors can play a role in the development of SAD. Some examples of factors that could make you more susceptible are where you live and family history of SAD or other mental health diagnoses.

When Should I Seek Help?

While the occasional bad day is normal, a pattern of bad days or a consistent change in appetite or sleep can be a signal that it's time to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. If you have noticed changes in your mood this winter that seem to be lingering beyond what you feel is normal, help is available.

Pro tip: Not sure if you have symptoms of SAD or are just in a winter slump? Keep a journal. Write down your daily mood and any symptoms you are having. If changes in sleep, appetite, or mood are persistent and impacting your daily life, that's a good time to reach out for help.

There are many resources available to help you manage through the difficult winter months, including counselors at The Village Family Service Center. Contact an office near you or request an appointment online.

Source: Mayo Clinic

*Originally published February 2020

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