Winter blues or something different? Many people may experience depressive symptoms during the winter months and may find themselves overwhelmed and having difficulty with their daily functioning. This may be related to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that is characterized by depression and commonly occurs at the same time each year. Generally speaking, it is a mood disorder that presents itself in climates where there is less sunlight for extending periods of time during the fall and winter months each year. It occurs when the body’s internal clock is disrupted by the lack of sunlight and leads to feelings of depression. SAD is often treatable by a mental health professional and resolves within months of treatment.
According to the National Center for Biotechnological Information (NCBI, 2020) about 5 percent of adults in the United States experience SAD and it typically lasts for several months during the year. Typically, like depression, SAD occurs more in women than men.
There is hope! SAD may be treated with consistent light therapy from a trained mental health professional. Other approaches have been found to be effective in treating SAD, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, medications, exercise, and diet. During these unprecedented times we are facing with the Coronavirus and social distancing, those who are impacted by SAD may experience more severe symptoms. Exposure to sunlight, taking nature walks, and connecting with family and friends via social media outlets may provide some relief.
Finding a therapist for SAD treatment is essential in reducing the effects of the disorder. Therapy may include sessions once or twice per week individually or in group format. It is also important to note that change in diet or modifications in medication should be under the advice of a physician. While exercise regimens are important in your physical and mental well-being, consistent routines should be implemented in the mornings or early afternoon to allow the body time to regulate and produce the proper amount of melatonin during sleep at night. During these times of increased technology in working from home and connecting with others, electronic screen time should be limited in the late afternoon and discontinued at least two hours prior to bedtime. Seek out a therapist and discuss your concerns to begin your new journey to mental wellness.
This is for informational purposes only. Seek professional help from your mental health or medical physician for further guidance.
Angela M. Powell, Ph.D., LPC-S, CSC