Seasonal Affective Disorder: Treating the Winter Blues

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BY|Theo Gagen View Bio|15th Oct 2019

Have you ever noticed that as the seasons change, so does your mental health? Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a seasonal depression that comes around every year, typically during the fall and winter months. SAD is a real, diagnosable mental health issue. If you think you might be dealing with SAD, there are things you can do to cope. 

Symptoms

SAD can cause a combination of various physical and psychological symptoms, including:

  • Low energy 
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depression
  • Lack of interest in doing things previously enjoyed
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
Causes

There are several suspected causes of SAD. Most causes are related to changes in your biological rhythm that result from the time of year. 

  • Vitamin D deficiency from lack of sunlight exposure. Your brain depends on sunlight to help regulate its sleep-wake rhythm with vitamin D, and limited exposure to sunshine in the fall and winter months can result in vitamin D deficiency.
  • Less serotonin production stimulated from the sun. Sun exposure also increases the production of serotonin, which is a feel-good “happiness” hormone known to help alleviate depression.
  • Attitude-triggered depression caused by the time of year. Sometimes the onset of depression begins with the start of school or as the holidays approach.
  • Weight gain and a more sedentary lifestyle that occurs with changes in the weather and from the holidays.
Treatments

If you have SAD,  you should seek to treat it right away. This could include a  combination of at-home self-treatments and professional therapies, including psychological or physical. It all depends on the causes and symptoms of your case.

Supplements

Have you ever heard that depression can be a “chemical imbalance”? Sometimes SAD is a case of imbalance caused by nutrient deficiency because key nutrients are required to support the brain’s natural sleep-wake cycle and keep mood-regulating hormones balanced. Shoring up the deficiencies with supplements can reduce symptoms in people with SAD when this is the case. A doctor can help you determine the deficiency, which could be vitamin D, iron, b12 or a host of other nutrients. 

Therapy

When depression hits, your world becomes dark and lonely. Therapists work to help be a light for your path and guide you out of depression, so in addition to any other therapies you do, be sure to consult with a mental health professional. Talking with a therapist can be very helpful in getting to the source of your depression so you can address the root cause.

Light Therapy Lamp

Using a light therapy lamp helps make up for the lack of sunlight you get when you’re hit with SAD. Having it on for at least 30 minutes a day can help balance your hormones and potentially keep depression at bay.

Exercise

Exercise is shown to reduce stress hormones and increase levels of feel-good hormones like endorphins and serotonin. Regular exercise keeps you in good health, which is important for warding against depression.

Getting Help for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Many people experience the “winter blues” due to nutrient deficiencies, seasonal lifestyle changes and other potential causes. It’s not as hard as you might think to find a therapist who can help. Go to SonderMind.com to find a therapist in your area who specializes in treating SAD.