While some people may be excited about cooler temperatures, others may be slipping into a form of depression. As the seasons change, a number of people suffer from seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
It is common to have a slight change in habits with each new season. As the weather cools off, you may spend less time outside, or you may find yourself staying snuggled in your bed just a little longer. These behaviors usually adjust and you’ll soon find a new routine for the fall and winter months.
For those people affected by SAD, these behaviors turn more serious and they don’t seem to bounce back to their “normal selves.” It is especially common in the fall and winter months, often occurring at the same time each year.
“Once it starts to affect your functioning, whether it’s at home, work or with your relationships, then [seasonal affective disorder] turns more serious,” explains Dr. V. Maxanne Flores, General Psychiatry Residency Program Director and member of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
Symptoms of SAD
If you haven’t been feeling like your normal self, you may have some minor symptoms of SAD. Flores explains some common symptoms include:
- Changes in appetite—usually overeating or craving specific foods
- Overall lack of energy and feelings of fatigue
- Difficulty completing tasks or trouble concentrating
- Withdraw from friends and family and other social activities
- Feeling more pessimistic
- A sense of hopeless
- A lack of pleasure in activities that once were enjoyable
If you begin feeling SAD:
If you’ve found yourself slipping into these symptoms of season affective disorder, you may consider a few tips to see if your mood or behavior improves.
Flores says the following activities can help you feel recharged and cheer up your attitude:
- Spend at least 10-15 minutes outside every day to be exposed to natural light
- Open the windows in your house
- Listen to relaxing music
- Spend time talking to family and friends even if you’re not interested in doing so at first
- Make sure you are trying to eat a balanced diet
- Participate in some form of exercise
Add a little light to your life
Along with these suggestions, Flores emphasized the importance of getting some form of light each day. Many researchers have thought that the possible cause of SAD is the lack of light in the colder months.
The reason light is so important to our body is because of the specific hormones that are released when exposed to bright or natural light. Flores explains our bodies are physically altered by our environment or the weather. “There are changes in the body’s production of melatonin if it’s darker outside,” she said. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body’s rhythm.
“If you’re willing to bundle up and get outside for 30 minutes a day, outdoor light is the best. Even if it’s cloudy or overcast, you still have access to more light overall than indoor light,” she adds.
You’re not alone
If you think you may suffer from SAD and the suggestions listed above have not seemed to help, you may have a more severe case of this disorder. You are not alone, and there is help available.
“Come in if you’re feeling these symptoms,” Flores said. “It never hurts to come in. We can ask you a few questions and give you some suggestions. Some people can take an anti-depressant just for a few months during the year.”
Along with seeing those who suffer from SAD, Scott & White Healthcare treats a variety of psychiatry conditions including depression, bipolar disorder, general anxiety, ADHD, alcohol and drug dependents, and many others.
If you or someone you love may benefit from our services, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We want you to welcome each new season with excitement.
About the author
I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.