Seasonal Affective Disorder
The winter months are often difficult for some as we are confined to our homes and not as active as when we have sunny, warm temperatures. The days are shorter, and with more darkness we often feel blue.
However, there is a difference between winter blues and being affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The winter blues are very common, with many of us experiencing a mood shift during the colder, darker days of winter, whereas SAD is a recurrent type of depression associated with the change in seasons. If you are affected by SAD, your symptoms begin sometime in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.
Symptoms for SAD include:
Feeling depressed most of the day, almost daily
Having low energy
Losing interest in activities
Thoughts of suicide or death
The primary reason for winter blues and SAD is the lower level of natural sunlight we are exposed to in the fall and winter. Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), medications and psychotherapy; or a combination. Light therapy replicates natural light with light boxes, which use white fluorescent bulbs to mimic sunlight. It can be particularly helpful in regulating the release of melatonin, which increases when the sun goes down. It’s normal to have some days when you feel down, however, if you feel down for most days and can’t seem to get motivated to do the activities you normally do, it’s best to seek professional help because it may not just be winter blues.
Exercise can be very helpful. It can increase serotonin and endorphins, which both affect mood. Moderate exercise daily can be a great mood boost. Keeping active during the winter months is important for positive physical and mental health.
If you find yourself with any of the above symptoms, it’s best to get professional advice and seek treatment. You are not alone. It is estimated that SAD affects over 10 million Americans.
At The Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, New Jersey, we have a team of licensed professionals available day, evening and weekend hours. Visit us on Facebook or at
www.hellenictherapy.com or call us at 908-322-0112.