More than just the winter blues
Longer, colder days can sometimes make us feel a little blue every once in a while. But for some people the change in seasons triggers a very real type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
According to the Mayo Clinic1, symptoms of SAD usually start in the fall and continue into the winter, sapping your strength and making you feel moody. Symptoms may include:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Feeling hopeless or worthless
- Having low energy
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
- Problems getting along with others
- Hypersensitivity to rejection
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms and legs
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
If you have the odd day where you feel a little off, that’s perfectly normal. But if you notice any of the symptoms above lasting longer than a few days, and you’re finding it hard to do the things you normally enjoy, you should schedule a visit with your doctor just to be on the safe side. Treating SAD is important because SAD limits your ability to live your life to the fullest, and it can impact your family members, your work, and other important areas of your life.
There is no shame in needing a little extra help every now and then, and you shouldn’t feel as though you’re overreacting if you notice some of these symptoms and want to talk to your doctor about them. In fact, going to your doctor while your symptoms are still relatively mild is important because it allows you to get treatment before things worsen.
Your doctor will usually do a physical exam, some lab tests, and a psychological evaluation to check for signs of depression. If she determines that you are suffering from SAD, treatment may include2:
- Light therapy. Your doctor may recommend that you purchase a light therapy box that mimics natural outdoor light. This light appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood.
- Medication. If symptoms are severe or your doctor feels it will work for you, she may prescribe antidepressants.
- Talk therapy. You may benefit from talking to a mental health professional to help you manage stress, learn healthy ways to cope with SAD, and change any negative thoughts or behaviors that might be making your condition worse.
The winter can be a beautiful time of year with its crisp, cold weather and sparkling snow, so if you find yourself struggling, make sure to reach out for help so you can get back to enjoying your life, winter and all.
For more information, including other helpful ways to combat SAD, visit Everyday Health. For some great information on anxiety including how to know when it’s time to fight back and how to calm your anxious mind, check out our article on the age of anxiety.
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