Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Plaguing You?
Author: Nikki Woods, MSW, LCSW
For many of us, changes in the season can also mean changes in our mood. Its easy to merely attribute these “winter blues” to colder temperatures, shorter days and cabin fever. Doesn’t everyone hate being stuck inside in subzero weather? But what if the changes you are feeling are more then just a distaste for the cold?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) impacts 10 million people each year; equivalent to almost 6% of the population. These individuals experience a mood shift that repeatedly correlates to seasonal patterns. These shifts, or symptoms, can include any or all of the following:
- Feelings of Hopelessness
- Low, Diminished Energy
- Loss of Interest in Activities
- Hypersomnia or a tendency to oversleep
- Changes in appetite - especially a craving for more starchy, sweet foods
- Weight Gain
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Avoidance of Social Situations
People who are also at greater risk are females, ages 18-30, who have family members that have been diagnosed with depression.
Why Is This Happening?
There are a number of possible factors that contribute to SAD. What we do know is that there are physiological changes that occur as a direct result of seasonal changes. For instance, melatonin, which is a hormone that promotes sleep, tends to be secreted at greater levels during darkness. As winter days get shorter and darker, melatonin production in the body increases, altering our sleep and energy levels. In addition, with minimal sunlight, our bodies can produce less Vitamin D which directly impacts Serotonin activity in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire.
What Can Be Done to Help Treat It?
There are some subtle changes that can be made to your day to help prevent the occurrence of these aforementioned symptoms. It is important to monitor your mood and energy level throughout the day. Make sure to get outside to soak up any available sunlight, engage in physical activity as much as possible and keep a journal of all nutritional intake. This keeps you accountable for your actions and more proactive in making changes
The most effective treatment however, is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Watch the video below to learn how CBT could effectively help treat your wintertime blues.
If you feel that you may be experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, please contact us at 732-533-4224 to discuss treatment options.