For many people the holiday season is filled with parties and social gatherings with family and friends. But, there are some people who experience the complete opposite and holiday depression, sadness, loneliness, and anxiety can take over.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be a result of many different factors in a person’s life. It could be finances, broken relationships, or thoughts of a family member who passed, but regardless of the reasons that lead to SAD, it is still something to take very serious. Shorter days during the winter and a reduction in sunlight seem to be a main trigger for SAD. Shortened daylight hours in the winter can affect your body’s natural clock for releasing melanin when it’s time to go to sleep and this can lead to SAD in certain people.
According to NIH.gov:
Some people experience a serious mood change during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. This condition is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD is a type of depression. It usually lifts during spring and summer.
“Winter blues is a general term, not a medical diagnosis. It’s fairly common, and it’s more mild than serious. It usually clears up on its own in a fairly short amount of time,” says Dr. Matthew Rudorfer, a mental health expert at NIH. The so-called winter blues are often linked to something specific, such as stressful holidays or reminders of absent loved ones.
“Seasonal affective disorder, though, is different. It’s a well-defined clinical diagnosis that’s related to the shortening of daylight hours,” says Rudorfer. “It interferes with daily functioning over a significant period of time.” A key feature of SAD is that it follows a regular pattern. It appears each year as the seasons change, and it goes away several months later, usually during spring and summer.
Not everyone with SAD has the same symptoms. Symptoms can include:
Sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
Fatigue and decreased energy
Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
Changes in weight
Thoughts of death or suicide
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
1. According to NIH.gov “In light therapy, patients generally sit in front of a light box every morning for 30 minutes or more, depending on the doctor’s recommendation. The box shines light much brighter than ordinary indoor lighting. Studies have shown that light therapy relieves SAD symptoms for as much as 70% of patients after a few weeks of treatment. Some improvement can be detected even sooner.
2. If you’re feeling blue this winter, and if the feelings last for several weeks, talk to a health care provider. “It’s true that SAD goes away on its own, but that could take 5 months or more. Five months of every year is a long time to be impaired and suffering,” says Rudorfer. “SAD is generally quite treatable, and the treatment options keep increasing and improving.”