Ever Get Sad During the Winter? Here’s Why It Could Be Serious
It’s no secret that winter is the gloomiest season of all of them.
While spring is filled with hope, summer time is filled with gentle and heat, and fall’s chill is not less than buoyed by the aesthetic fantastic thing about the leaves altering coloration, winter is three months of chilly, damp, grey nothing — or, relying on the place you reside, presumably longer.
But there’s a side to winter that’s much more miserable than simply lacking the carefree ease of summer time — a side recognized within the psychological group as seasonal affective dysfunction, or (aptly), SAD.
If you’ve ever felt such as you have been experiencing a severe bout of the “winter blues,” discovered your self repeatedly staying inside for days at a time when it will get chilly and snowy out, or just feeling in a months-long funk that kicks off in December, there’s a great likelihood you is perhaps affected by SAD.
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To assist get the chilly, exhausting information on seasonal affective dysfunction, I spoke with two medical doctors about it — so right here’s what it’s best to find out about SAD.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
“Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that happens around the fall and winter months,” says Dr. Mike Richardson of One Medical. “The cause of SAD is unknown, but the leading theory is that it is related to our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is our biological clock that regulates our energy, telling us to be more energized during the day and wind down at night. This cycle is greatly influenced by light, so during the winter months when sunlight is less, it can throw off our circadian rhythm and influence our energy levels and mood.”
Dr. Sherry Benton, founder and chief science officer of TAO Connect, agrees that daylight is an element, however suggests another potential causes. “SAD is most commonly prevalent during the winter months due to a number of factors such as daylight savings time, colder weather and holiday-related stress.”
Who Experiences Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Both Benton and Richardson agree that folks more likely to be affected by SAD match an identical profile: youthful folks with pre-existing despair signs.
“People with depression, or those with a family history of depression, are the most at risk for SAD, as the seasonal changes can often make depression symptoms worse,” Richardson notes. “Additionally, SAD is more prevalent in young people. People between the ages of 18 to 30 are more commonly diagnosed with SAD than older age groups.”
Benton provides that the place you reside may also issue into the matter: “Being further away from the equator seems to be related to the prevalence of SAD,” she says, seemingly because of the truth that dwelling nearer to the poles impacts how a lot daylight you’re receiving within the winter versus in the summertime.
How to Tell If You’re Experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder
So how are you going to know should you’re experiencing SAD? Even should you’re not within the 18 to 30 age group, have by no means been recognized with despair and don’t stay in a northern a part of the world, it might nonetheless be one thing you’re experiencing.
“Some common signs of SAD include a lack of motivation, decreased desire to participate in the activities you once enjoyed, increased irritability, trouble concentrating or sleeping,” says Benton.
“The symptoms of SAD are the same as depression,” Richardson agrees. “The only difference is that the symptoms present more during the fall and winter months. If you begin to feel down or depressed, not interested in things you normally like to do, or find that your energy is overall low, you may have SAD — and should speak with a healthcare professional.”
How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder
Does the above sound like your expertise of the colder months of the yr? If so, it’s best to know that you just don’t need to endure like this each time the temperature drops and the times start to shorten — there are methods to fight SAD.
“Try adjusting your daily schedule to optimize the amount of time you spend in the sun, whether it’s taking a walk during your lunch break or adjusting your exercise schedule to work out in the morning instead of the evening,” suggests Benton. When daylight financial savings time happens, there’s a change to your circadian rhythm which might improve signs of SAD, she explains. “To counteract the change, it’s important to become strict with your sleep schedule and set specific times to go to bed and wake up every day.”
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Another issue that contributes to SAD is an absence of exercise, says Benton. “It can be extremely easy to fall into a sedentary lifestyle during the winter and the holidays, so try to avoid sitting for long periods of time and aim to do something active every day. Additionally, many people find the use of a light therapy lamp, a lamp that emulates natural sunlight, very helpful.”
Richardson agrees that gentle remedy is an enormous a part of combating SAD signs.
“Light therapy, also called phototherapy, can be used to counteract the lack of sunlight during the winter months and give a boost to your circadian rhythm. Try phototherapy by going for a walk outside in the daylight for 30 minutes. If that is a little too cold for you, you can also try a light box that you can place on your desk and get some synthetic sunshine before the start of your day.”
He additionally suggests approaching SAD with the identical seriousness you’d method non-seasonal despair — by making an attempt out counseling and/or chatting with a medical skilled to debate attainable treatment.
“If you find that your mood is taking a turn for the worse, try counseling. A therapist can help you identify the exacerbating factors worsening your mood and help guide you through the winter months,” Richardson says. However, he notes, one of the best ways to deal with SAD is to forestall it from taking place. “Bupropion, also known as Wellbutrin, is a type of antidepressant that has been found to prevent SAD when started in the fall,” he says.
That doesn’t imply it’s too late for you if the snow has already begun falling, although.
“If you are in the midst of the winter and think you have developed a case of SAD, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, Zoloft, or Lexapro, are your first-line treatment options to help get you back on your feet,” Richardson says. “These medications are fairly safe, but talk with your doctor to discuss if these medications are right for you.”
How to Support a Partner With Seasonal Affective Disorder
If it’s your important different and never you who’s experiencing SAD, it may be exhausting to know be supportive. You wish to do enjoyable winter actions, however they really feel too drained to take part; maybe they begin withdrawing even from spending time with you.
The first step, in keeping with Richardson, is taking their state of affairs severely.
“If your partner is experiencing SAD, the best thing you can do is not ignore it,” says Richardson. “SAD, like depression, can create a feeling of isolation, so it is best to engage with your partner before it is too late.”
“This does not mean you need to force them into therapy or blind them with a light box every morning,” he says. “Instead, check in with them to see how they are feeling. Let them know that you are there for them and ready to support them in any way they need.”
Benton means that making an attempt to encourage your companion to get extra gentle publicity is an effective begin.
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“If you recognize the signs of SAD in your partner, start by encouraging your partner to optimize their amount of sunlight exposure and if possible, adjust your schedule alongside them to make it a dual effort,” she says. “You should also try to encourage any sort of daily activity that you can do together. Support in any capacity can make a huge difference to someone experiencing mental health issues.”
As properly, Benton says, in case your companion is actually struggling, don’t be afraid to recommend in search of remedy.
“In addition to these lifestyle adjustments, you should always encourage professional help, she says. “There are several online mental health tools at our disposal as well as therapists. Mental health problems can always be treated no matter the severity of the symptoms.”
Richardson agrees that, in some circumstances, SAD can get fairly extreme and would possibly want skilled intervention, and in case your companion’s so depressed they start feeling suicidal, it’s essential to take that severely.
“If you are ever concerned that your partner is actively suicidal, do not wait. Contact the suicide prevention hotline or a healthcare profession immediately, and they will help you figure out the next best steps to help you and your partner.”
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