What Exactly is Seasonal Depression?


Margaret Hanlon, Writer

Have you been feeling down recently? Unmotivated? Tired? Feeling a case of the “winter blues?” It might be a disorder commonly referred to as winter depression, otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder. SAD is a type of depression individuals may experience during the changes of the seasons. Symptoms commonly appear during the shorter days of the year: late fall and early winter.

This seasonal funk is not something to be disregarded. It is essential to take the time to focus on your mood and motivation to keep it steady throughout the year. Some feelings of mild seasonal depression include feeling sad or down, losing interest in once-loved activities, having low energy, sleeping too much, overeating, difficulty concentrating, and feeling worthless.

Seasonal depression typically affects adults and the risk of SAD increases with age. Women are often more affected than men. About ten percent of individuals with seasonal affective disorder have the opposite seasonal pattern and experience complicated feelings during the spring and summer months. However, these symptoms look a little different, including a loss of appetite and sleep. Many individuals affected by SAD also have another psychological condition that pairs with their seasonal depression.

The days becoming shorter and the absence of sunlight to brighten our moods is vital to SAD. People are less likely to engage in activities or spend time outdoors when there is less light. As the temperature increases again in spring and the time changes, people will likely feel better and more motivated. The exact cause of SAD is unclear, but studies suggest it has to do with people who have trouble regulating serotonin levels. Another idea is that it causes an increase in melatonin production, which increases sleepiness. The production of both serotonin and melatonin has to do with night-day cycles; therefore, it makes sense that people may have trouble adjusting to seasonal changes when levels are off balance.

Any form of light therapy is recommended to boost your mood during these times when seasonal depression can occur. Spending extra time outside or even near a window can help to relieve symptoms. Seeing a healthcare provider is another option if this feeling is more than just sadness. Set realistic goals and take on only a little during these times. Spending less time alone and surrounding yourself with people you love is crucial too. Exercising regularly, eating well-balanced meals, and doing things to make yourself feel good are all critical aspects of feeling better any time of the year.

If you feel that seasonal affective disorder is affecting you, do not hesitate to seek the help and guidance you need during hard times.