We often hear about the winter blues, but are they actually a thing? The short answer is yes. The winter blues is commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or winter depression.
We know the winter can be a tougher time of year especially if you live in a cold place where the number of dark hours increase significantly. Getting through the winter with your kids running a muck and having to put on a million layers of clothes can also wear anyone down.
Mental health is complex. That’s why it’s important to constantly be aware of how you’re feeling and keep abreast of some psycho-education.
SYMPTOMS OF SAD
How do you know if you have SAD? Symptoms of SAD can include the following.
- persistent low mood
- a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
- feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- feeling tired or lethargic often
- sleeping often or struggling to get up in the mornings
- weight gain
Things can get confusing if you have other mental health concerns in addition to SAD. If you suspect you may have SAD, please consult a health or mental health professional.
CAUSES OF SAD
As mentioned, the area of mental health is a complex space. The exact cause of SAD is not fully known. However, researchers have found a link to reduced exposure to sunlight during winter and fall months.
As evidence of this theory, studies support the theory of sunlight exposure with the following:
- The link with the lack of sunlight inhibits the hypothalamus from working.
- The production of melatonin* in people with SAD may be higher than we typically see.
- Lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin* levels, which is linked to depression.
- An upset in the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) due to seasonal changes may lead to SAD.
*Melatonin is a hormone that amongst other things makes you feel tired.
*Serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep
It’s also possible that some people are more vulnerable to SAD as a result of their genes, as some cases appear to run in families.
TREATMENT FOR SAD
It is important that if you suspect you may be experiencing SAD that your consult a health or mental health professional.
As with other mental health challenges, there can be a range of treatments available. It is also important that you receive an accurate diagnosis, so treatment is inline with diagnosis.
If you are in the postpartum period, this can be less clear, which is why it is important that you seek support as soon as possible.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Firstly, if you suspect you may have this, please consult a health or mental health. They will be able to do a full assessment for you. The assessment may go through questions about your mood, lifestyle, seasonal changes you go through in terms of your thoughts and behaviors, sleeping and eating habits, etc.
If you think you might be experiencing another form of depression or mental health concern find out more:
- FREE Guide for Postpartum Depression
- Postpartum Depletion
- Anger or Rage Postpartum
- Tips for Dealing with Anxiety Postpartum
COMMON TREATMENTS FOR SAD
- SUNLIGHT THERAPY: A lightbox is used to elevate mood through simulated sun exposure.
- CHANGES TO LIFESTYLE: Increasing exposure to natural sunlight, stress management and upping exercise. All of these impact your hormone production.
- TALK THERAPY: Therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used.
- PHARMACEUTICAL INTERVENTION: Antidepressants may also be recommended in certain cases.
STAY IN THE EVIDENCE-BASED MENTAL HEALTH LOOP
Be good to yourself,