Feeling Blue? A note about seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Feeling low now that summer has ended? Dreading the darker and colder days ahead? Finding yourself with less energy, less motivation and less productivity as the winter approaches? If this is a pattern, you may be experiencing some winter blues or, if in more severe cases, perhaps you even suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Anyone can experience SAD, but people who are more likely to have it are those have had experienced depression in the past and those who live in northern latitudes.

SAD is a recurrent form of depression that typically occurs in the fall months and carries through to the winter months. Symptoms and experiences of SAD worsen as the days get shorter and darker. Although one’s experience of SAD can vary greatly, the most severe forms of it can be debilitating and lead one to feel unable to function. It can impact your circadian rhythms, and so your sleep can be greatly impacted as well.

What is the cause of SAD? It is unlikely that there is a single cause for SAD; rather, it is more likely that SAD is multifactorial. Imbalances in melatonin and serotonin, as well as vitamin D, likely play a role. Limited exposure to sunlight can worsen the SAD and and is key in contributing to those imbalances.

What can you do to improve your mood as the winter months approach? Keeping a positive attitude, exposing yourself to the outdoors and sunlight whenever possible, and ensuring that you stick to your healthy exercise and dietary routines are all essential ways to keep your mood as positive as possible. However, if you find that your mood is worsening and it is starting to impact your ability to manage your day-to-day responsibilities, you might want to consider professional evaluation and support. Although medications can be considered in some cases of SAD, there are several non-medication treatment options, such as bright light therapy, that can be safe and highly effective. If you have suicidal thoughts, please call 911 immediately.

This form of depression can be especially debilitating because the winter months coincide with the holiday season, so feelings of depression and social withdrawal can make navigating the holidays even more difficult. Many therapists and psychiatrists are highly trained to evaluate and manage symptoms of SAD so that you can feel your best. Be sure to seek out that extra support or the professional help necessary for you to be able to experience those unique joys the wintertime and holiday time can bring.

Photo credit: Bigstockphoto.com

DISCLAIMER: All information and content in this post are for informational purposes only. The author does not provide any medical advice on the site, and the information should not be so construed or used. Nothing contained in the site is intended to create a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a licensed, trained physician or health professional or to be a substitute for medical advice of a physician or trained health professional licensed in your state. The information expressed here are the views of  Dr. Iyer only and are not the opinions of any hospitals or academic facilities with which Dr. Iyer has an affiliation. You should consult a physician licensed in your state in all matters relating to your health.