Winter is that time of year that can be difficult for others to stay positive. It can be for a number of different reasons but is categorized as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
The National Institute of Mental Health says SAD is a type of depression with symptoms that typically begin in the late fall or early winter. It typically lasts for about four to five months, usually going away during the spring or summer. Some people can experience SAD in the late spring or summer, but it is less common.
Symptoms of SAD are often associated with major depression and can include signs of low energy, trouble sleeping or concentrating, and feeling sad most days. Specific symptoms for winter pattern SAD can be oversleeping, also known as hypersomnia, social withdrawal, weight gain, and overeating, particularly carbohydrates.
Some scientific research has found possible reasons for SAD. The cause could be reduced serotonin activity in the brain, which helps regulate mood. Some studies suggest it is caused by decreased sunlight and vitamin D, which help maintain serotonin levels. Less daylight during the winter means people get less sunlight resulting in decreased serotonin levels. Sad thoughts of the winter season are common in those who have SAD.
SAD can be treated in several different ways. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps others learn how to cope with difficult situations, with a specific branch of therapy for people with SAD. CBT-SAD is conducted in two weekly group sessions for six weeks. Each session focuses on replacing negative thoughts of the winter season with happier ones. It also helps find ways to combat loss of interest in the winter. This can be spending time with friends and family or engaging in other outdoor activities.
Medications can also significantly help people suffering from SAD. Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) help maintain normal serotonin levels. All medications have side effects, so be sure to talk to your doctor if you believe SSRIs could help. Light therapy has also been a common SAD treatment since the 1980s. Light therapy exposes individuals to light daily using a bright light box for at least thirty minutes.
If you believe that you may have SAD, talk to your healthcare provider to find the right treatment.