Is it Just the Winter Blues or SAD?

Winter Blues or SAD?

As the days grow shorter and the temperature drops, many of us find ourselves grappling with a shift in mood and energy levels. It’s not uncommon to experience a subtle downturn in spirits during the winter months, but for some, these feelings go beyond mere seasonal fluctuations. The line between the winter blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be blurry, leaving many wondering whether their wintertime funk is a passing phase or something more serious. In this blog, we’ll explore the difference between the common winter blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder, shedding light on the signs, symptoms, and strategies to navigate these seasonal shifts in mental well-being.

Is it Just the Winter Blues or SAD?

With the winter blues, you might decide to cancel that visit to your friend’s home because you don’t feel up to it and instead, you spend the day on the couch in front of the TV – nothing wrong. The feeling of depression lifts in a day or two, and you’re back to your old self.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) on the other hand is a behavioral pattern when the affected individual loses the passion in their life and withdraws from social interactions. Symptoms of SAD tend to clear up in the spring without the need for medical intervention.

Keep reading to learn more about the differences between the winter blues and SAD and what you can do to change your mental state.

Winter Blues

The winter blues, often referred to as seasonal blues or winter slump, describe a temporary and mild decline in mood and energy levels that some individuals experience during the colder months. The winter blues are thought to be linked to the reduction in sunlight exposure, which can affect the body’s internal clock and disrupt hormonal balances, particularly serotonin and melatonin.

Symptoms of the Winter Blues

Symptoms of the winter blues may include:

  • a general sense of lethargy
  • increased fatigue
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • a subtle shift in mood towards feeling down or less motivated

It’s essential to recognize that the winter blues are typically a transient condition and often improve as the days lengthen and sunlight exposure increases during the spring and summer months. However, for some individuals, these symptoms may escalate into a more severe condition – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

SAD is a type of depression linked to changes in seasons, particularly the winter, and is more common for people living in the northern hemisphere. People who experience the onset of SAD find it starts sometime in the autumn and lasts through the winter until the spring arrives.

SAD Symptoms

According to the American Psychiatric Association, people suffering from SAD will experience the following symptoms of seasonal affective disorder:

  • Feeling sad or depressed all the time.
  • A disinterest in activities that would usually bring them joy.
  • A change in appetite that veers towards eating more junk food.
  • Changes in sleeping patterns. Your body’s internal clock may contribute to sleeping more than you should. The disruption of the circadian rhythm may decrease total sleep time.
  • A drop in energy levels despite getting plenty of sleep.
  • Brain fog reduces critical thinking and decision-making.
  • Slowed speech and the inability to sit still.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Additional Information: Recognizing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

In some cases, seasonal affective disorder can be treated with Vitamin D3 supplementation and light therapy. Treatments for people with SAD may also include medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Since SAD tends to have a predictable pattern, people predisposed to developing SAD should be proactive about it. Seek help from a mental health counselor and take proactive steps to get through this challenging time.

If you’re prone to developing SAD, use the following tips to make it easier on yourself.

  • Take a 30-minute walk every day: This strategy gives you a dose of fresh air and a change in scenery. Also, giving your body some much-needed exercise.
  • Add vitamin D3: Add to your supplement schedule or eat foods fortified with D3.
  • Plan activities with friends or family:  live up to your commitment to see them.
  • Be more social: leave the house as often as possible.
  • Light Box: Light box therapy stimulates the sunlight that’s missing during the darker winter months.
  • Find a support network: Know who you can rely on in your inner circle to discuss your feelings. Or talk with a mental health counselor and discuss your emotions with them.

If you are suffering from winter depression, understanding your response to the shift in weather is critical. You can overcome SAD and beat the winter blues without damaging your mental health.

Blue Sky Counseling – Mental Health Counseling Omaha, NE

I, Carly Spring, M.S., LIMHP, LADC, CPC, offer my specialized expertise to assist in the healing process to anyone who may be experiencing and suffering from a vast spectrum of mental health issues. Such mental health issues include behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, addiction issues, and life transitions. I believe strongly in applying a holistic perspective addressing your whole person not just the bits and pieces of you. Contact us with any questions or to talk with a mental health counselor in Omaha today.