‘Tis the season to be jolly! The holidays are upon us, it’s the season of gratitude. Everyone is excited about those special days when they can get together with family and friends and indulge in great food and company. In many areas, the holidays are also accompanied by a distinct changing of seasons; leaves turning colors and the anticipation of cold wintery nights in front of fireplaces with hot pumpkin spiced beverages.
For many people, with autumn and winter come the onset of a downward psychological change. The gray, short days provide the perfect environment to create negative mood changes in people who, for most of the year, do not suffer from any mental health disorders. This seasonal mood disorder is often referred to more commonly as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Some of the more common symptoms of SAD are:
- Feeling various levels of depression almost every day.
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Experience bouts of low energy
- Inconsistencies in sleeping patterns and insomnia
- Weight fluctuation and binging or appetite loss
- Hopelessness which could also lead to suicidal ideation
This disorder is now recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – DSM 5 – as a common disorder. Some of the most common causes related to this disorder are thought to be a reduction in physical activity in the colder months of the year and the shortening of days leading to a lot less exposure to natural sunlight. Though most SAD occurs in the late autumn and winter months people can suffer from this disorder at any time during the year.
A few of the risk factors for SAD include, living in areas with a reduced amount of sunlight, already suffering from a mental disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder and having a family history of SAD. Women are also known to suffer from this disorder more than men.
It’s normal to occasionally feel down or less motivated when the weather gets colder and the skies stay gray for days on end, but it’s not normal to feel depressed for days or even weeks at a time. If you think you might suffer from SAD it’s always best to see a professional who can diagnose you properly. With the slowly increasing access to mental health care, there are becoming more options for care, including many online therapists like the professionals at BetterHelp. You don’t have to face this alone.
Besides connecting with your therapist on a regular basis, here are a few practices you can implement which might help lessen the symptoms of SAD:
- Purchasing a lightbox or participating in light treatment is said to be an effective first step to reducing the onset of SAD
- Physical exercise has shown to be most effective when coupled with some of the other treatments, especially light treatment.
- Vitamin D supplements are good to take especially as levels of ultraviolet light tends to decrease in the winter months.
- Medication might be an alternative to helping you feel better. These would need to be prescribed by your therapist.
- Talk Therapy is a great way to discuss your feelings and get anything out in the open that might be bothering you. Not only can a therapist help you figure out if you suffer from SAD, but they can also offer a lot more ways to reduce its impact on your life when you feel it coming on.
We hope this article gives you some helpful hints to help you shake the winter blues. SAD is a serious condition and even before you try to diagnose yourself, it’s best to go see a professional therapist.
If you feel like killing yourself, please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. There is someone waiting to try and help you feel better.