By Samantha Rogers
Think about your winter months … Driving home from work in the dark. Not being able to play with the kids at the park after dinner. Rushing from the car to the house. The decrease in sunlight can drastically change your lifestyle. Research shows it can change your brain chemicals too. Although experts are not quite sure, they theorize that a lack of light may upset sleeping cycles and other natural bodily rhythms, and even disrupt the chemicals in your brain that affect mood.
I had a friend who broke up with her boyfriend each February. Valentine’s Day issue? Nope. She was just so unhappy in the winter months that her relationships suffered. She is not alone. A lot of people find a mood dip in the winter months.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that affects a person during the same time each year. Most people typically experience symptoms in the winter and feel better by the spring. At least 10 million Americans are estimated to suffer from SAD, and 60-90% of those with SAD are women.
Symptoms for winter depression include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, anxious, or moody
- Appetite changes and weight gain
- Loss of interest in activities
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Oversleeping and drowsiness
Most SAD sufferers benefit from light therapy, which either entails sitting in front of a “light box,” or using lighting to simulate dawn every morning. You don’t necessarily have to go to a treatment center to have this. There are home options for light therapy. Studies have shown that 50-80% of those with SAD have a complete remission of symptoms after using light box therapy.
If you feel you are currently suffering from SAD, contact a mental health professional or, if you need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. If you feel you may have symptoms of depression year-round, take an anonymous mental health screening today.
Samantha Rogers is the Program Coordinator at Military Pathways.