Do cold temperatures and long winter nights have you feeling a bit down?
Or maybe you have come to notice that with each winter, you seem much less motivated and a little more irritable.
It could be more than just feeling the blues about the cold weather and this time of year.
It could be a fairly common disorder known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
“It is a type of depression that typically presents or worsens on a seasonal basis,” said Megan White, director of child and family services at Centerstone in Seymour. “Most often, the winter months are when SAD symptoms are most likely to be present, but sometimes, symptoms occur during the summer months instead.”
SAD is caused by changes in the body’s internal clock, which causes chemicals in the brain to become off-balanced, leading to depression-like symptoms, White said.
The decrease in sunlight during fall and winter also affects symptoms.
People tend to be less active and less exposed to sunlight when cold temperatures, White said.
“Many people report that they experience seasonal mood changes,” she said. “It is not uncommon for someone to report a decrease in energy and activity levels during the winter months. Symptoms usually begin to appear in the fall as days become shorter and weather turns colder.”
Most times, symptoms go away with the spring, she said.
There are some simple ways to manage symptoms of SAD. Maintaining a normal routine that includes getting plenty of sleep, regular exercise and healthy eating habits will often help to some degree, White said.
People should reach out to their health provider if they continue to feel depressed, experience changes in sleeping habits, have difficulty concentrating, have increased anxiety, overeat and have difficulty getting motivated during the cold weather change.
There are more severe symptoms of SAD, which include consistent interference with a routine and thoughts of suicide.
Treatment can range from medicine and psychotherapy to artificial sunlight treatments.
“The treatment of SAD really depends on the severity,” White said.
That’s why it is best to speak with your doctor first, she said.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Seasonal affective disorder
Symptoms: Depression, change in sleep habits, difficulty concentrating, increased anxiety, overeating and no motivation
What to do: Contact doctor or get plenty of sleep, exercise and healthy diet
Learn more: Visit centerstone.org, mentalhealth.gov or mentalhealthamerica.net