The Seasonal Blues

By: Jenna Savage

Holiday stress isn’t the only struggle people endure during this time of year. On the contrary, many people find that their moods are impacted by the winter season as well, causing them to feel depressed and fatigued. This disorder, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), affects many people through the winter, leading them to experience negative thoughts, increased cravings for carbs, and even suicidal ideation.

If you’re one of the sufferers of SAD, you’re not alone. U.S. News & World Report reports that millions of Americans suffer from the disorder. This is due in large part to the dwindling number of daylight hours during the winter months. When there is less daylight, our bodies tend to produce less serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our moods. The increased hours of darkness also have the potential to increase the amount of melatonin — a hormone that encourages sleep — within our bodies.

Sunlight isn’t the only element that contributes to winter blues, however. Other factors play a role as well, such as age, gender, and genetics. Women between the ages of 20 and 40 are more likely to suffer from SAD than men within that age group. People who have families with a history of depression are also more likely to be diagnosed

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with SAD.

If you think that you may suffer from SAD, you should contact your doctor and set up an appointment. There are many treatment methods that are used to lessen the severity of symptoms. A medical professional can point you in the right direction toward a treatment plan that will meet your individual needs.

Typically, patients are recommended to keep active. Exercise like jogging and walking can help bolster positive feelings and overcome SAD symptoms. Eating a good diet is another way to combat SAD symptoms. Foods that do not have a strong impact on blood sugar levels —such as proteins — are less likely to influence mood.

Those who suffer from SAD are also encouraged to take advantage of daylight whenever possible. Waking up early enough to spend some time in the sun can help ward off depression.

If those suggestions do not work, there are some therapeutic techniques that patients can utilize as well. The most common technique is light therapy, during which patients sit in front of artificial light for up to 45 minutes a day. Light boxes, which emit the artificial light, can be found on the Internet for purchase. However, patients should be sure to choose an effective product with a return policy to get the most for their money.

Talk therapy and other forms of addressing SAD symptoms are available to patients as well. Ultimately, the goal is to lessen the severity of symptoms and encourage patients to become happier and healthier.

For more information about seasonal mental health, see our article on holiday stress.