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 individuals, 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.
Activities you once enjoyed no longer hold the same interest, and you may repeatedly avoid tasks like grocery shopping or going to work. It can be typical to experience these occasionally. However, when this occurs for most of the day, nearly every day for an extended period of time, it may be a sign to speak with a professional.
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
- 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 SAD?
While some biological factors can play a role in Seasonal Affective Disorder, the exact cause is not yet understood. One of the biological factors relates to our circadian rhythm, or our internal body clock. The change in season can also lead to changes in chemicals within our brain that help to regulate our mood. In addition to biological factors playing a role in the development of SAD, risk factors – such as where you live, a family history of Seasonal Affective Disorder and other mental health diagnoses – can make individuals more susceptible.
When Should I Seek Help?
While the occasional bad day is normal, a pattern of bad days or a pattern of change in appetite or sleep can be a signal to talk with your doctor or a mental health professional.
If you have noticed changes in your mood this winter that seem to be lingering beyond the occasional bad day, help is available. One way to determine if what you are experiencing is more than just a winter slump is to keep a journal or calendar of your daily mood. If the changes in sleep, appetite, or mood are persistent and impacting your daily life, it may be time to reach out for help by contacting your doctor or a mental health professional.
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