All work and no play make for a dull winter! Why is it that when the temperature drops and the evenings grow darker, our precious free time seems to dwindle away. During the winter months, you may feel that all you do is eat, work, and go to sleep—with very little excitement in-between. The colder temperatures and record snowfalls may explain why you’re spending more time indoors. But is there another reason to explain why you’d rather sleep-in all day than go to work? Or why you’d prefer to stay indoors than meet up with friends for dinner? Perhaps, something else is affecting your mental health and wellness.

If you’re wondering why you always feel tired, isolated, or even lonely during the winter months of the year, you may be one of the 5% of Americans living with seasonal depression (American Psychiatric Association).

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is precisely what it sounds like. It’s a form of depression that manifests itself whenever there’s a major shift in seasons. For many of us, we may experience symptoms of SAD during the late fall and winter months, but it’s not unusual to experience similar symptoms around the spring or summer months, as well.  

Though the direct causes of SAD are still unknown, what we do know about this condition is individuals (particularly women) with a family history of depression or bipolar disorder are more likely to experience SAD—as well as people who live farther from the Earth’s equator (Mayo Clinic). According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), SAD can affect an individual at any stage of their life; however, it is more likely to begin in adults ages 18-30.

Common SAD Symptoms to Look For

According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of SAD include:

  • Feeling depressed almost every day
  • Low energy levels or decreased interest in activities
  • Fluctuations in appetite and sleeping patterns
  • Inability to focus on tasks
  • Feeling useless or guilty
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Best Ways to Treat SAD

A popular theory for why people experience SAD is due to a lack of sunlight. As mentioned earlier, the shift from fall to winter means less exposure to daylight and that means less essential nutrients of Vitamin D. For this reason, a medical professional may prescribe patients Light Therapy to treat their SAD symptoms. Light Therapy works by giving the illusion of sunlight through a built-in box structure. It’s typically used during the early hours of the day to give the body and brain the sensation of waking up to natural sunlight. Of course, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about this treatment before purchasing a Light Therapy box.

Other methods of treatment may include diet, exercise, certain prescribed medications, or individual therapy. Talking to a mental health professional is often recommended to help you explore and identify certain thoughts and behaviors that may be contributing to your SAD symptoms. Individual therapy for depression or anxiety can also help you understand and learn ways to manage depression and live a healthier lifestyle.

Is SAD the Same as Depression?

Though your seasonal depression may go into remission once spring arrives, it’s important to understand that SAD is a form of depression, and if left untreated, may lead to other serious conditions that can negatively impact your mental health, such as alcohol or drug abuse, overeating, problems in your social and professional relationships, or suicide (Mayo Clinic). It’s important to recognize these risks and ask for professional help if your symptoms feel too big to handle on your own.

If you’d like to speak with a member of our team to learn more about individual therapy and depression treatment, contact the Calli Institute today!

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