Seasonal Affective Disorder: What Is It and How Can You Deal With It?
Seasonal affective disorder: What is it? Here are signs to look for and different ways on how to manage it.
What is seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs in the winter months, when the days are shorter and colder. It’s typically experienced by adults aged 20 and up, and is more common in women, but anyone can experience seasonal affective disorder.
In the winter, the days are shorter (meaning it gets dark much earlier in the day than other times of the year) and colder. Both of these have tangible effects on our bodies!
Have you ever noticed you’re sleepier in the winter? That’s no coincidence! It’s easier for our bodies to drift off to sleep in colder temperatures, so when our environment cools down like it does in the winter, we often feel more tired than throughout the rest of the year. And the short dark days we experience in winter increase our brain’s production of melatonin, which is a sleep related hormone. Naturally, as we produce more melatonin, we experience more energy depletion and exhaustion associated with depression.
That’s why seasonal depression is so common in the winter–the weather is literally slowing you down and making you tired.
What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder has similar symptoms to chronic depression. This includes things such as:
- Energy depletion
- Lack of interest in activities you normally enjoy
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite
- Increased feelings of agitation
- Mental fog or trouble concentrating
- Decreased sex drive
- Feelings of hopelessness
What can you do to manage it?
Get more sunlight
If possible, get outside each day while it’s sunny out. If you’re able to
take a walk during lunch, this is a great way to do this. That way, you
can guarantee at least a small amount of sun exposure each day, even if
it’s dark out by the time you leave work. If you can’t get it naturally,
try to supplement daily sunlight with a Happy Lamp, which mimics sunlight for light therapy.
Consider avoiding alcohol
Winter is often filled with holiday parties with cocktails, but alcohol is a
natural depressant, which can make symptoms of seasonal affective
disorder worse. Avoiding it or limiting your intake can help you better
manage any symptoms you may already be experiencing.
Be more social
This one is hard, because when seasonal affective disorder hits us, we
rarely want to do anything other than lay in bed. But prioritizing
social time can help manage the symptoms of SAD–which, like chronic
depression, would just get more severe with isolation. Pick a buddy you
can confide in about SAD, and let them know you’ll need an extra push
this winter to get engaged and active, but that it’s very important to
you to keep trying.
Talk to your doctor
Regular therapy and medication are also some of the most effective ways to treat seasonal affective disorder. Talk to your doctor about
intervention and treatment methods that can help you manage your
symptoms so they don’t get on top of you this season.
Interested in therapy? We offer both online and in-person therapy at our Houston office. Our professional and dedicated therapists and counselors are waiting to help you. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment for online counseling services if you think we can help.
Asma Rehman is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist. Most of her clinical experience has been in community settings, including Bo’s Place, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, and psychiatric hospitals. She also has experience in the private practice setting. She enjoys working with adults and families to navigate the challenges of life, whether they are personal, with family, or with peers. Areas of interest include grief and loss, depression, anxiety, trauma, stress management, relationship issues, and family communication.