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Wellness & Mental Health

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Winter is Coming

It’s that time of year again. No, not Fall, it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) kick-off season. Here we go again! Let’s be proactive this year.

As a child, my Mom said I had the Winter Blues and as an adult, I learned the clinical term is Seasonal Affective Disorder AKA SAD. Some people will tell you everyone is cranky in the winter because it’s cold, but there is a little more to it.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD?

A mild to progressive form of depression during the colder months of the year. A decrease in sunlight often affects certain people negatively. While SAD mostly happens during Fall and Winter months, some people experience this during the Spring/Summer seasons as well, however, this is less common. I’m going to focus on the Fall/Winter SAD since this is something, I have personal experience with.

SAD zaps your energy and leaves you feeling low without really knowing why. According to the American Psychiatric Association SAD affects around 5% of the US population, most of whom are women. The SAD blues occurs for about 40% of the year.

Causes

  • Circadian Rhythm (our 24-hour internal clock cycle) is thrown off by the reduction in sunlight during the colder months of the year.
  • Melatonin (hormone regulating sleep and wake schedule) levels are disrupted by the seasonal change
  • Serotonin (feel-good chemical in your brain that affects mood) levels drop when we get less sunlight. A drop in serotonin can trigger sadness and depression
  • Vitamin D is great all year round, but sometimes the lack of sunlight can leave you deficient. Low vitamin D can trigger mood changes and possibly anxiety and depression.

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Symptoms

  • Decrease in energy
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Sleep Issues
  • Oversleeping and still feeling tired
  • Overeating carbohydrates
  • Weight Gain
  • Desire for isolation
  • Increase in anxiety and depression
  • Mood Swings

When the temperature starts to drop in September and the leaves start to fall, I know what is right around the corner, my cold weather funk. I don’t know how to explain it, but its something I feel every year. Once it starts getting dark at 4 PM my SAD turns on a switch, like clockwork.

Personally, for me, the following things begin, sleepiness, insomnia, sex drive decreases, I overeat and I hate leaving the house after dark. I walk around in a fog and I am ready for bed earlier and earlier. My depression and anxiety start acting up and I’m dragging all day long.

I did a lot of research on SAD and then brought up the conversation up with my mental health professional. She asked a few questions and ultimately agreed that SAD played a part in my mental health. We worked out a game plan on how to be proactive and treat it.

Treatment

I relocated my writing desk to a room in my house that is drenched with sunlight. I spend most of the morning here, so it helps me take in as much sunlight as possible. Our bodies are like solar panels, we need to absorb the sunlight and store it to use later. 

In the Fall, while it’s still relatively nice out I go for walks on sunny days, there is something about the sun hitting your skin that makes you feel amazing. I try to exercise more in the winter when I don’t stay outside for very long.

I bought a light therapy lamp. At first, I thought it was going to be ridiculous, but I used it for a week and it helps.

If you or someone you know has some of these symptoms its always a great idea to talk to a health care professional about your options, or to rule out anything else. I am not a professional, just someone who personally is going through this, and the above blog is based on my opinion as a patient.

If you are struggling with anxiety, please check out how to cope

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All articles are strictly the opinions of the writer based on his or her experiences in life. If you have questions or are unsure of anything regarding your health we strongly advise you to contact a professional for all medical advice.

24 comments on “Seasonal Affective Disorder: Winter is Coming

  1. I have SAD, but bc I live in SF it effects me during the summer too! 😫😂 Irony?? lol

    • SAD can present in the warmer months too, it’s just not as common as the winter months. It’s not you ❤️

  2. Lisa Alioto

    I LOVE my light therapy lamp – best investment of this sort in a long time

  3. Hhmm.. not sure if why I can’t find my comment here earlier. I’ve been wondering if I have this one as I am always feeling similar every time the seasons come.

    • It’s not you, my web page went crazy and I had to roll back the site to yesterday’s save point. I lost all my comments and likes from today. So sorry for the confusion

  4. Excellent research & informative piece. I guess SAD is less common in Mediteranen countries as they’re more warm throughout the year?

    • Correct Chris. Some studies show some people get SAD during the warmer months in hotter climates, it’s just less common than 4 season climates.

      Thanks for reading

  5. Definitely a great thing to be aware of! I’d never heard of SAD before!

  6. Great post. I live in Durban, South Africa where we get a lot of sunlight even in winter. But I now have a better understanding of how winter affects you. Wonderful that you have an action plan to deal with SAD.

  7. I wonder if I have this? I have really been struggling lately and it began around the beginning of the month! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you for sharing. Talk to your primary about it, they may be able to help if you aren’t improving. Good luck with everyone

  8. Recently I have come across some posts on SAD, I never heard before. Love how you have listed each and every thing from medications to symptoms. Great post. Going to pin it.

  9. This is so informative and so detailed. Thank you for this. I am so glad that I can finally hear someone talking about this.

  10. Great post! I never heard of this before. I know people get down when winter comes around, but did not know there was an actual disorder. My sister lives in Alaska where you have about 6 months of dark and really cold weather. She said it definitely had an affect on her mood and sleep habits. Thank you for sharing!

  11. Great post! I suffer with SAD also and understand what you go through!

  12. The tag line reminds me of Game of Thrones ” Winter is Coming!” I am aware of this season approaching, and trying to get myself ready for my seasonal disorder. Thanks for the post!

  13. I love this post, it is very real. When I get to feeling out of sorts I turn on my lamp. Keep getting the word out.

  14. The winter months are always hard, especially if you live in an area with gloomy and cloudy weather in the winter. It’s hard to get motivated to go outside in the winter, but I try and get out to take some winter photography. Snow covered trees, winter frost covered (things) Somehow, even taking a picture of something that is gloomy helps me too.

    This is a good post with helpful information.

  15. Great post! I don’t struggle with SAD in the winter months, but I definitely have issues during the summer. I wonder if it’s related or something completely different…

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