Winter depression is medically known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that typically shows up with seasonal changes. Normally, SAD occurs with the beginning of autumn and continues on into the winters, which is why it is mainly nicknamed as winter blues or depression.
In certain cases, SAD can occur when the spring breaks. Such instances are rare though. Seasonal affective disorder, therefore, is timed. In simple words, you may feel low, moody, irritable and energy-deprived during the cold owing to the weather.
Common causes of SAD
Typically, SAD occurs due to the lack of sunlight. Research agrees that exposure to the sunlight is essential for your health. A lack of sunlight can alter the way you respond to stress, which explains why a sunlight shortage in the winters causes depression and anxiety.
For some people, any traumatic incident related to their past may cause the depression. For instance, a person may have lost someone in the winters and the subsequent winters can trigger the associated pain and sadness.
Not to mention, becoming limited to staying indoors can also culminate in irritability. The exact reason behind seasonal affective disorder, however, is unknown. Researchers point out that people with SAD exhibit an imbalance in their serotonin levels. This brain chemical is responsible for regulating mood, which may be the reason behind the depression.
At the same time, patients also show an increased release of melatonin, commonly known as the sleep hormone. It regulates sleep. Since the exposure to sunlight is also less during such a time, the vitamin D levels may go down.
All these factors may be held responsible for the winter blues.
Symptoms of SAD
Generally, symptoms of SAD show up with autumn and progress as the winters unfold. Typically, these subside as the weather changes again and spring arrives. Less commonly, people may see symptoms of SAD as the spring strikes and progress as summers proceed.
Some common symptoms include:
- Feeling low or depressed almost all day long
- Feeling energy drained
- Experiencing sleeping troubles
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling guilty, hopeless, or worthless
- Harboring frequent thoughts of suicide or death
- Noting changes in weight or appetite
- Feeling agitated or sluggish
- Losing interest in all or most of the activities that you generally enjoy
Some symptoms that are specific to winter SAD or winter depression entail oversleeping, weight gain, low energy or fatigue, and appetite changes. You may also note an increased craving for carbohydrates enriched foods.
Similarly, some symptoms tend to specific to summer SAD, sometimes also known as summer depression. These include weight loss, anxiety or agitation, insomnia, and poor appetite. Hence, the particular symptoms for the two types of seasonal depression tend to be opposite of each other.
Some of the common risk factors that can increase the likelihood of experiencing SAD are:
A family history of poor mental health or depression can increase the odds of suffering from SAD.
-Living away from the equator
The further you live from the equator, the lower the temperatures in the winters. This amps up the risk of getting SAD.
-Being a woman
Reports have shown that the incidence is four time more common among females than men. Therefore, the odds of SAD are high among women.
Reports also show that SAD is more common among teens and young adults than among older adults.
-Prevalence of depression
If you are already depressed, your symptoms can worsen as the season changes.
Summing up – When should you visit the doctor?
Although feeling low or sad is common, you need to pay your doctor a visit if you notice all the symptoms and a lack of interest in all your interests for days at a time.