Many times, clients call into the office right after the time change, stating that they feel “off” or that they don’t feel as happy as they were earlier in the year. Yet, other times, we have regulars who contact our office who are here from October/November until March/April. These clients have one thing in common: Seasonal Affective Disorder.
This is not a made up mental health condition to get out of going out in the cold, or attending holiday gatherings. These clients, are unable to “snap out of it.” Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD is a form of depression that is correlated to the changes in seasons. Individuals who struggle with SAD are more likely to have less energy and feel an increased moodiness during the winter months. Questions we hear from loved ones, “so if my loved one is not making it up, what causes it?” Researchers believe that a decrease or a drop in serotonin and melatonin levels could have a big impact on it. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that affects our moods, a drop could trigger depression. Our serotonin levels go up in the summer months when we are exposed to sunlight, and down during winter months when the days are shorter. Additionally, Melatonin is a hormone related to sleep, helping us to sleep. During the winter months, our bodies produce more melatonin when days are shorter and darker thus causing us to feel more sleepy. The exhaustion IS real!
So what does SAD look like? Those who struggle with SAD, show some of the same symptoms as those who struggle with major depression:
- Changes in eating (too much or not enough); many clients crave foods that are high in carbohydrates
- Feeling exhausted or fatigued
- Irritability, trouble getting along with others
- Low motivation, lack of interest in hobbies or activities
- Decreased frustration tolerance
- Withdrawing from social interactions
Note: While they show the same symptoms as depression, their symptoms seem to appear around the winter months. Many clients find that medication or light therapy has been helpful during the winter months. Yet others, choose to go the route of weekly counseling, a support group or other options to help them combat this challenging time. If you or a loved one, suffers with SAD, you don’t have to go through this winter “funk” on your own, let us help you! We have support groups for those who struggle with depression, as well as therapists that can work with you on developing coping skills to help you through this time. While you may feel isolated at times, you are not alone!
Last winter, I jotted down things that clients were doing, that were helping them feel better. Throughout the winter months I’ll be posting a weekly tip on facebook of suggestions you can do to combat the winter blues.
Blessings to you and your family,