Do you often feel moody or melancholy in the wintertime? Does it ever feel like the cold temperatures and lack of sunlight are sapping your energy? Do you find it difficult to be upbeat and motivated when the days are short and frigid? Don’t brush off these feelings as “the winter blues.” You may suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression related to the seasons. SAD typically affects people in the winter, but some people also experience it in spring and summer. Watch out for the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, and consult a doctor if SAD is disrupting your daily life.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are similar to the symptoms of depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, they include the following:
- Feeling despondent for the majority of most days
- Losing interest in once-cherished activities
- Feeling lethargic or lacking energy
- Struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep
- Experiencing a change in appetite or weight
- Feeling agitated or moody
- Struggling to concentrate
- Feeling hopeless or worthless
- Experiencing thoughts of death or suicide
In addition, some symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are related to when a person experiences SAD: fall/winter or spring/summer. In the colder seasons, people sometimes experience oversleeping, cravings for carb-heavy foods (like bread and pasta), weight gain, fatigue, and low energy levels. In the warmer seasons, on the other hand, people may suffer from insomnia, a lack of appetite, weight loss, and agitation or anxiety.
It’s normal to feel a bit depressed sometimes, but if you believe you suffer from SAD and it is affecting your daily life (especially your sleep patterns, your appetite, or your work and hobbies), talk to your doctor. It is also important to consult a doctor if you feel compelled to use alcohol for comfort or you have thoughts of suicide. After your diagnosis, your doctor can help you find an effective treatment.
Causes of SAD
You may be wondering why seasonal affective disorder exists. It’s clearly not just a strong feeling of dislike for winter weather. While experts don’t understand the specific cause of SAD, they believe a few different factors may contribute to the disorder.
First, the lack of sunlight in winter can disrupt your body’s internal clock, which can trigger feelings of depression. Second, that lack of sunlight can also cause the body’s level of serotonin (a brain chemical that affects mood) to drop, which can also trigger depression. Finally, your body’s melatonin levels may shift in winter, which can disrupt your sleep routine and mood.
Furthermore, there are several risk factors that may influence your risk of SAD:
- You have a family history of SAD.
- You have depression or bipolar disorder.
- You live far from the equator.
Once you’re diagnosed with SAD, your doctor can discuss your treatment options with you. There are four major options – medications, light therapy, psychotherapy, and vitamin D – which may be used alone or in combination.
Some people do just experience “the winter blues.” Wintertime isn’t their favorite, and they eagerly await the arrival of spring each year. If you’re amongst those people, hold tight! Springtime is just around the corner. But if you experience a deep depression each winter that disrupts your mental and/or physical health, don’t suffer alone. Make an appointment with your doctor to get to the bottom of it.
At Springhouse Village, we know how important it is to enjoy your retirement in a lively and welcoming environment. We make it easy for our residents to be active participants in our community. Whether that means encouraging residents to shop at local farmers markets or assisting them in starting a garden club, we strive to help our residents thrive. To learn more about the amenities and services we offer, contact Springhouse Village today.