CLEVELAND (WJW) — It’s almost time to turn back our clocks, and although that means gaining an extra hour on Sunday, we’ll be losing an hour of daylight in the evening. For some, this can lead to experiencing feelings of winter blues or even depression.
Seasonal depression, also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of clinical depression that’s triggered by the change of seasons. According to the Cleveland Clinic, SAD commonly begins in the late fall with feelings of sadness, lack of energy, loss of interest in usual activities, oversleeping and weight gain.
“Seasonal affective disorder is caused by the change in light and your circadian rhythms,” she explained. “When there are short, cold, dark days, we experience less sunlight. This interrupts the release of serotonin and melatonin, which impact our sleep and our mood. There is also a drop in vitamin D because we get vitamin D from the sunlight.”
While it’s normal to feel a little down during colder months or to experience the winter blues, the Cleveland Clinic says SAD goes beyond this. It is classified as a form of depression that affects daily activities.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 5% of adults in the U.S experience SAD and it usually affects more women than men.
But there are ways to help cope with these symptoms.
According to Dr. Albers, one of the easiest things you can do is spend more time outdoors. Exposure to the sun can make a big difference and boost your vitamin D levels. She said you can even sit near a window with the shades open for a few minutes each day if it is too cold outside.
Treatment options include:
- Light therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Antidepressant medication
- Spending time outdoors
- Vitamin D
“This is a lamp that you put on your table for 20 minutes in the morning and it helps to mimic some of that sunlight, which can produce a lot of the feel-good chemicals in the brain that we absorb from the sunlight,” Dr. Albers said.
If symptoms aren’t improving with time or seem to be getting worse, Dr. Albers recommends seeking the help of a mental health professional.