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  • Writer's pictureJD Grantham

Fighting the Winter SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs during certain times of the year. In most cases, SAD symptoms start in the fall and continue through winter. That means when the days get shorter and the temperature gets colder, this time of year can be a real challenge for many people.

If you're feeling down more often than not during winter break, you may be experiencing seasonal depression.

Woman hugging herself; Seasonal Affective Disorder

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

To understand SAD, you must recognize the symptoms. The Cleveland Clinic states that 5% of adults in the U.S. will experience signs of SAD. It starts in young adulthood (usually between 18 and 30) and affects women more than men. Unfortunately, we are still a long way off from understanding why this phenomenon happens.

The main symptoms people report of this form of seasonal depression are feelings of hopelessness, changes in sleep patterns or appetite, irritability, and a lack of energy. They spend more time indoors to avoid the cold, have trouble sleeping, and feel social isolation due to seasonal activities that may no longer be enjoyable. If you are having frequent depressive episodes that are being triggered during certain times

of the year and are consistent, there are ways to fight them head-on.

Seasonal Affective Disorder NIMH Infographic

How to Combat SAD Symptoms on Your Own

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to combat seasonal depression symptoms. One of the best ways to improve your mood during winter is to exercise more and spend time outdoors (to obtain vitamin D) when possible. Other helpful strategies include:

  • Focusing on gratitude.

  • Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing.

  • Engaging in activities you enjoy, such as spending time with friends or family.

When to Treat SAD

Understanding mental health conditions can be complex. Suppose winter depression (or summer depression) interferes with your day-to-day life. In that case, it's essential to seek help from a medical professional with experience treating it. With the right treatment plan, you can manage seasonal depression symptoms and live your best life year-round.

Here are the top 2 ways a trained mental health professional may try to prevent seasonal affective disorder:

Light Therapy

Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is a type of treatment that utilizes exposure to artificial light to treat various mental and physical health conditions.

This therapy is most effective in the morning in daily half-hour sessions. It uses a light box that emits bright, full-spectrum light, which helps regulate circadian rhythm and increase serotonin levels. It is important to note that light therapy can cause side effects such as headaches, fatigue, and eyestrain, so it is essential to talk to a doctor before starting a light therapy regimen.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy or counseling, is a type of therapy in which individuals talk with a trained mental health professional about their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors to gain insight into their mental health and work toward improved emotional regulation and functioning. This practice can be highly effective for individuals experiencing SAD.

Through talk therapy, SAD sufferers can learn to identify and manage their symptoms, explore potential triggers, and develop coping strategies to help them manage the condition. Additionally, this treatment can help individuals understand the underlying causes of their depression, anxiety, or stress and work on improving their mood and outlook.

TRN: Seasonal Depression Help Advocates

As advocates for mental health and well-being, we believe that it is vital to get help for seasonal depression. Whether you are suffering from mild symptoms or more severe seasonal depression, many effective treatment options are available.

By talking with your doctor or mental health specialist and utilizing strategies like exercise, meditation, and social support, you can work to overcome the "Winter Blues" and reclaim your happiness and well-being.


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