I Feel More Sad During the Fall and Winter Months. Am I Depressed?
As the days get shorter and the air gets chillier, you may find yourself feeling low more often. While these feelings may be part of the normal ups and downs of life, they could also be indicative of a type of depression linked to changes in season, called seasonal affective disorder.
If you find yourself experiencing the symptoms below, you should consult with a doctor:
Feeling depressed nearly every day
Having low energy, feeling tired all the time
Having problems with sleeping, especially oversleeping
Experiencing changes in appetite or weight gain, especially craving carbohydrates
Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
Having difficulty concentrating
Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
People with seasonal affective disorder often start experiencing depressive symptoms in the fall or winter months and start to feel better when spring returns. (There is also a less common variant with a flipped timeline, where people start experiencing symptoms in the spring or summer.)
Why Might A Change in Season Cause Depression?
Fewer hours of sunlight during the day can mess with your body's internal sleep clock, leading to feelings of depression. Having less exposure to sunlight can also lead to a drop in serotonin, a chemical in the brain that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. It may also cause overproduction of melatonin, a hormone which promotes sleep, leading to oversleeping and feelings of lethargy.
What Can I Do About It?
There are many ways to treat SAD, including light therapy (getting a light box to increase your exposure to white light) and medications that increase serotonin levels in the brain. Talk therapy has also been shown to be helpful. Talk to your doctor about the best options for you.
Rule Out Depression
Please take this survey to see if you’re having symptoms of depression:
If you score greater than a 10, you should contact a clinician, such as a doctor or therapist:
Please Reach Out If You Need Help
If you’re looking for evaluation and treatment for depression, please feel free to be in touch anytime:
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), Mayo Clinic
Seasonal Affective Disorder, National Institute of Mental Health
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder, PsychCentral