Why Do I Feel Sad in the Winter? | Revere Health | Family Medicine

Everyone feels sad from time to time, but if you notice that you become depressed when the seasons change (especially in the winter), you may be suffering from a specific type of depression called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

How is SAD Different From Other Types of Depression?

SAD is different from major depressive disorder because it’s brought on by the changing of seasons, often hitting its peak in the winter months. Some people may also experience SAD in the summertime.

Many symptoms of SAD are similar to symptoms of major depression, which include:

  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Depression that lasts most or all day
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Low energy or sluggish feeling
  • Suicidal thoughts

However, some symptoms are unique to seasonal affective disorder, for example:

  • Depression that occurs almost every day during the fall and winter months
  • Excessive sleeping or tiredness, called hypersomnia (those with major depression often experience the opposite: insomnia)
  • Overeating, weight gain and carbohydrate cravings 
  • Anxiety, restless and agitation (more common in the summer pattern of SAD)

 

Who is at Risk for SAD?

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of SAD, there are some biological indicators that may increase your risk:

  • People whose brains have a hard time regulating serotonin, a chemical that influences your mood, are more likely to experience SAD.
  • An overproduction of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, can make some people feel more sluggish during months with shorter days and longer nights.
  • People with SAD may not produce enough vitamin D, which is also clinically linked to major depression.
  • Your gender may also play a role—women are about four times more likely to suffer from SAD than men.

Other risk factors of SAD include living far away from the equator and having a family or personal history of depression and other mood disorders.

Treatments for SAD

There are several options for treating seasonal affective disorder depending on the severity of your symptoms. For most people, some combination of medication (SSRIs), light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and vitamin D supplements can help treat SAD. You may also notice a benefit from small adjustments like orienting your living space or office toward south-facing windows that get more natural sunlight during winter months, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet, and scheduling social activities with friends and family.

 

If you get the wintertime blues, you aren’t alone. Talk to your doctor about treatment options if you have symptoms of SAD or major depression.

 Our providers take time to listen and communicate clearly with each patient, and our professional and courteous staff provides quality, personalized care for all of our patients’ general health and medical needs. We specialize in weight control, depression management, skin care, hormone replacement, cardiac conditions and cholesterol management. We strive to provide our patients and their families with quality healthcare services and respect their right to participate in all treatment decisions

Sources:

“Seasonal Affective Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health. 

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

 

“Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” American Psychiatric Association. 

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder

 

“Seasonal Affective Disorder.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001532.htm

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

Recent Posts From Our Blog
Read more today!