Winter blues: What is seasonal depression?

By on February 20, 2018

By Yasmine Goodner —

Wintertime can be tough. Whether it’s icy roads sending your morning commute into a frenzy or freezing temperatures forcing you to bundle up in countless layers, the season is a big headache for many people.

For people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, dislike for colder months can be more deeply-rooted. Appropriately abbreviated as SAD, the disorder is a form of depression coinciding with changing seasons.

SAD is most common during fall and winter, but can also be triggered during warm seasons. Common symptoms of SAD include feeling lethargic, anxious, agitated and even suicidal. Often, sufferers gain weight and oversleep.

Fall and winter can cause SAD due to short days. During the fall, as sunsets begin to slowly creep earlier into the evening, a person’s levels of sunlight exposure drops dramatically.

The decrease in sunlight can affect a person’s circadian rhythm, altering serotonin and melatonin– chemicals regulating mood and sleep– levels in the body.

Affecting millions every year in the U.S., SAD is a common disorder experienced by people of all ages. Fortunately, there are several methods of treating winter blues.

One method is light therapy, during which a light box that creates bright artificial light is used to mimic natural light and returns serotonin levels back to normal.

In addition, vitamin D supplements have been shown effective. Also, in more serious cases, a doctor might prescribe antidepressants.

Some simple things one might do to fight the effects of SAD include getting regular exercise, going outside as often as possible, increasing exposure to light, and socializing with friends and family.

Feeling down during the winter months is common. However, if a person often feels depressed or suicidal during the season, it can be the sign of something more serious and they should seek medical attention.

Fortunately, with just a few more weeks of winter remaining, it won’t be long before our serotonin and melatonin levels return to normal and we can go back to happily soaking up the warm spring sun.

File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal

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