What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder? Understanding Depression in Winter

 In Blog, Health

As the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, it is not uncommon for people to experience depression in winter. 

Although it’s easy to write off a shift in mood as a case of the “winter blues,” those who feel especially down during the cold winter months should not ignore their symptoms. 

If you have been feeling gloomy lately, and lost interest in things that would normally bring you joy, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder…   

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is a specific type of depression—one that is related to seasonal changes. Though the specific cause is still unknown, things such as decreased serotonin levels, imbalance of melatonin levels, and circadian rhythm disruption may play a role.   

Typically, the condition starts in the late fall and continues through the winter months. Less often, symptoms of the condition pop up in spring or early summer. 

Those with this disorder often start to feel relief once the seasons change. However, it is important not to minimize the seriousness of this condition just because it’s temporary. Although its duration may be shorter than that of chronic depression, seasonal affective disorder should still be addressed and treated. 

Why?

Because experiencing depression in winter can have an impact on all aspects of your life. When you struggle with seasonal affective disorder, you begin to notice its effects on your…

  • Work
  • Relationships
  • Sleep
  • Diet
  • And more

Despite the fact that a medical professional should confirm your diagnosis—as with all types of mental and physical health conditions—there are some symptoms that may suggest that you are dealing with seasonal affective disorder right now. 

Symptoms…

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder may include the following:

  • Frequent feelings of depression
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Low energy
  • Sluggishness
  • Agitation
  • Sleeping problems
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Isolation

More specifically, depression in winter can lead to the following:

  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Oversleeping

How It Differs from the Winter Blues

Many people experience the winter blues around this time of year. When we are cooped up inside due to chilly weather, it’s natural to feel a little down and to start counting the days until spring arrives. 

However, seasonal affective disorder is much more than that. It puts you in a deep slump that’s difficult to get out of, making you feel as though there is no end in sight.

Further, unlike the winter blues, depression in winter can hinder your ability to not only enjoy life but also function normally. 

Ultimately, seasonal affective disorder differs from the winter blues in its overall impact. If you recognize that your mood and behavior consistently change around this time of year, negatively affecting your life, it’s a sign that what you’re suffering from is more serious than a simple case of the blues.

How to Fight Depression in Winter

Dealing with depression in winter can be tough, but there are some ways you can address the symptoms you’re experiencing.  

Try implementing the following tips to shift your mood and improve your overall health. 

1) Maintain a Balanced Diet

There’s a link between diet and depression. In fact, research has shown that a nutrient-rich diet can lower your risk of experiencing depressive symptoms. 

Though a balanced diet should be followed year-round, it is especially crucial for those who regularly experience depression in winter. 

If you are not already doing so, make sure to consume enough of the following:

  • Lean proteins
  • Fatty fish
  • Colorful veggies
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Leafy greens
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains

Further, try to limit the amount of red meat, sugar, high-fat dairy, and processed foods you eat. 

2) Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

In addition to being an issue that many people suffer from during the winter months, fatigue is also a symptom of seasonal affective disorder. 

That’s why it is even more important to practice good sleep hygiene, ensuring that you’re doing everything possible to give your mind and body adequate rest. 

This means limiting naps to 30 minutes, creating a pleasant sleep environment, establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, and avoiding stimulants before you go to sleep.  

3) Stay Active

Exercise is considered to be a natural antidepressant for a reason: it increases serotonin and endorphins, which affect mood.   

By increasing your physical activity this time of year, you can boost your mood and fight depression in winter. Moreover, you can improve the quality of rest you get at night.

As it can be tough to get motivated to exercise when the weather is unpleasant, try joining a gym, taking a class, or finding a workout buddy. 

4) Get Enough Light

As mentioned previously, the cause of seasonal affective disorder is unknown. However, researchers have found that those who suffer from the condition are particularly sensitive to light—or the lack thereof.

It makes sense, as we don’t get as much sunlight in the winter months due to shorter days

To address this issue, it is vital to get as much light as possible. When the sun’s rays are visible, bundle up and take a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood. Or, if you can’t bear the thought of braving the low temperatures, try light therapy—a recommended form of treatment that involves exposing yourself to an artificial light source. 

5) Consider Taking a Supplement

Even while following a balanced diet, there is a chance you may not be getting enough of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need. 

For example, vitamin D, which plays a role in supporting mental health, is of particular concern this time of year. As most of our vitamin D comes from sunlight exposure, intake can be hard with less natural light.

But by introducing a high-quality supplement such as Dead Sea Moringa into your daily regimen, you can ensure that you are getting the vitamin D you need to fight depression in winter—as well as a number of other vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential amino acids.     

In Summary

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression linked to seasonal changes, and it’s a condition that should not be ignored. 

If you recognize that your mood regularly changes in the winter months of the year, affecting your life, it is imperative that you take the necessary steps to fight your depression during this time.

For example…

  • Maintain a balanced diet of nutrient-rich foods
  • Practice good sleep hygiene
  • Increase your physical activity
  • Get enough light
  • Consider taking a supplement such as Dead Sea Moringa

And, as always, remember to consult your doctor for help. 

 

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/more-just-winter-blues

https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/seasonal-affective-disorder#1

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