Woman looking out the window during wintertime

Got the Winter Blues? Could Seasonal Depression be the Culprit?

Mental Health
Does the change in weather and shorter days have you feeling down or less energetic? Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or what many would refer to as “seasonal depression” is a health concern for numerous people at this time of the year. Bayhealth Psychiatrist Andrea DeSimone, DO, discusses how to overcome SAD and enjoy life no matter how dark or cold it might be outside.

“SAD is a type of depression that occurs when the seasons change,” said Dr. DeSimone. “It is common for it to occur during the onset of winter and can affect anyone, though research shows it is mostly diagnosed in women and younger adults.”

Dr. DeSimone said common symptoms, include: 

Low energy
Appetite changes (usually an increased appetite and craving carbs)
Difficulty thinking or concentrating
Increase in sleeping 
Fidgeting and pacing often 
Feeling “stuck in the mud”
Loss of interest in activities

Dr. DeSimone explained that a lack of light exposure plays a huge role in SAD. One way to change that is through bright light therapy using a “light box.” Bright light therapy increases the amount of sunlight your body receives by using a special light designed to mimic natural sunlight. Exposure to sunlight helps regulate the two chemicals thought to be contributing to SAD—melatonin and serotonin.  

“Light boxes show the best effect in treating SAD when they are used early in the morning just after waking up for 30-60 minutes light therapy,” said Dr. DeSimone.

If you’re not a fan of being outdoors during the winter months, you can add natural light to your routine by having your curtains open during the daytime or spending time in spaces filled with many windows.

A great mood booster could be an early morning walk or an evening 30-minute workout. Taking vitamin D supplements may also help to reduce symptoms.

“There is no need to ‘tough it out’ or endure SAD alone. While it may disrupt your routine, it should only last a few months,” said Dr. DeSimone. “It is also good to note that it is not uncommon to experience SAD during the onset of the summer season.”

If you think you may be experiencing SAD, you should talk with your doctor. Visit Bayhealth.org/Find-a-Doc or call 1-866-BAY-DOCS (229-3627) anytime to be matched with a provider to meet your needs.