By Andrea Hanson, MS, NCC
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.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, 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.
So, when is it a good idea to speak with your doctor or a mental health professional? 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.
Some indicators of change in mood can be a lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed, repeatedly avoiding tasks such as grocery shopping, or avoiding 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. Other signals can include changes in your appetite, such as feeling hungrier or craving foods like bread or pasta, as well as feeling fatigued or sleeping more than usual, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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.
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.