Do you find yourself feeling depressed, fatigued, and craving sleep during the winter months? For about 5% of adults in the United States, this is the reality of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression. In addition, up to 20% of American adults may suffer from a milder form of the disorder, often called the “winter blues.”
As with many types of mental disorders, the roots of SAD may lie in the body’s neurochemistry. Hormone levels can be affected by the level of sunlight to which an individual is exposed. Serotonin levels may drop with reduced light exposure, while melatonin levels may rise. Research continues on causes and the best treatments, but antidepressants, talk therapy, and light therapy (exposure to artificial light that mimics sunlight) can all have an impact.
January and February are considered the “saddest” months, which is why we raise this issue today. We all can get a bit of winter doldrums from too much time inside, but be aware if you or a loved one have an extreme change in mood or energy level. We’ve compiled a list of online resources from medical and mental health advocacy organizations so that you can learn more, below. Contact a medical professional if you or someone you love needs further assessment.
Right now, it feels we’re all just hanging in there until the first days of spring. Let’s take care of ourselves as we wait!
National Institute of Mental Health