FSM Media

by Dianna Ranere

Seasonal Depression: Why You’re Feeling S.A.D.

It’s known by a number of names – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), seasonal depression, winter depression, among others. Regardless of the name it’s given, many of us will have spent the last couple of months struggling with a condition that seems to come around every year. During the colder, darker months of the year, it can be a lot harder to motivate yourself for anything, and a profound feeling of sadness can be hard to escape. To dig a little deeper, and maybe understand what you’re experiencing, the following information may be useful.


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What is SAD?

That’s a good question, because scientists are still trying to pinpoint exactly why the condition occurs. What we can be fairly sure about is that the reduction in daylight hours during the colder months of the year leads to an overproduction of melatonin – a hormone that makes us sleepier – and an underproduction of the “good mood” hormone serotonin.


What are the signs and symptoms?

As noted above, feeling lower in the colder months of the year is the primary calling card of SAD. If you also find that you sleep longer than you would in the brighter months, and don’t feel any better-rested as a result, then it’s another sign. People with SAD find getting out of bed much harder in winter.

You may also find yourself more prone to comfort-eating, and craving food with a high level of carbohydrates, and a lot of sufferers gain weight in winter.


What are the treatment options?

The best way to deal with SAD is first to make the most of what sunlight you can get – stepping outside in the morning for a cup of coffee or whatever you prefer can be a helpful boost. That said, we simply have less sun and fewer daylight hours in winter, so that may need to be augmented with light therapy such as a TheraBulb. These devices provide light at a certain level which convinces your brain that there is more sunlight, and allowing a better balance of hormones.

                   Photo by Hisu lee on Unsplash


Can SAD happen in summer?

Although it’s associated primarily with the darker, colder times of year, there are people who experience SAD in the months when the sun is blazing in the sky and – seemingly – everybody is having a good time. Too much sunlight can interfere with human circadian rhythms and pause production of melatonin – meaning that even if you do manage to sleep, the quality of that shuteye is not what it should be. Add that to the propensity for warmer temperatures to lead to shorter tempers, and yes, summer SAD is a thing. Doctors refer to it as MDD-SP. Some people are unfortunate enough to have both kinds.


Should I see a doctor if I think I have SAD?

It depends somewhat on the severity with which you feel the symptoms. Many of us would agree we get the blues a little in winter, especially once the holiday season has passed. However, something close to 5% of American citizens are diagnosed with SAD, a diagnosis that takes note that it seriously impairs their quality of life. If you are at the point where getting out of bed is a real struggle, or losing the ability to find fun where you usually would, you should certainly speak to a professional. Seasonal or otherwise, depression is serious.