Mental Health 101: Seasonal Effectiveness Disorder

November 22, 2016

The holidays are finally here, and everyone seems to be filled with cheer. Even the weather seems to be getting in on the fun, chilling to a nostalgic temperature that conjures images of cozy fireplaces with blankets, hot chocolate, and warm food with friends and loved ones. It’s enough to make you feel so happy and warm inside.

But what happens if you’re not feeling so…well, happy?

You could be one of the millions of people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or “SAD,” for short. Also known as Seasonal Depression or the “winter blues,” it’s a common type of depression that affects a good many people come fall and winter. According to Mental Health America, “In a given year, about 5 percent of the U.S. population experiences seasonal depression…
Four out of five people who have seasonal depression are women.” Depending on where you live, the lack of sunlight and the increase of melatonin that occurs with shorter days and longer nights can actually cause a heavy mood that can feel hard to lift, particularly when everyone around you seems to be delighting in pumpkin spice everything and a bit too jovial for your liking.

The symptoms are akin to other varieties of depression, and can include low mood/depression, anxiety, mood changes, problems sleeping, lethargy, sexual problems, social issues, and/or overeating.

What can you do to help yourself? Depending on the severity of the depression, certain activities can help lift you mood.┬áThe most important treatment is phototherapy, which is exposure to bright light. A quick walk in the daylight can really help reset your internal clock and mood, and if it’s too dark, a sun lamp that mimics sunlight can really help. Exercise can also boost serotonin, so anything from a group class to a brisk walk can help lift your spirits. If neither of those seem to help, seek a professional who might be able to help reset your brain chemistry with antidepressants and/or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, both of which have been proven to help tremendously with depression.

The best news is you don’t have to suffer in isolation. A good number of people have this condition, and it’s important not to disregard your symptoms. Talk to someone you trust, and get the help you need. SAD doesn’t have to last all winter. Help is out there. Get yours today.