Do you feel like you’re dragging yourself through winter every year? Do you feel like the darkness and coldness of winter drag down your mood and energy? If so, you may be suffering from winter depression. Winter depression is a type of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that affects many people during the winter months. In this blog post, we will discuss what winter depression is, how to identify it, and some treatment options.
What Is Winter Depression?
Winter depression is a type of depression that occurs during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight. It’s also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression. In simple words, this type of depression is caused by changes in seasons.
While this seasonal change can affect anyone, winter depression is more common in women and young adults. The reason for this is not fully understood, but it’s believed to be related to the body’s natural circadian rhythms. This is the internal process that regulates our sleep-wake cycles.
The reduced sunlight in winter can disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythms and lead to feelings of depression. Henceforth, if you’re feeling low during the winter months, you may be suffering from winter depression. But for an accurate evaluation, please consult with a professional.
How To Recognize It?
It might be difficult to tell the difference between the “winter blues” and winter depression.
The main distinction is that, with winter depression, the symptoms are more severe and last longer. For more clear differences, let’s outline some common symptoms of winter depression:
- Persistent low moods
- Loss of pleasure or interest in activities
- Increased irritability
- Low self-esteem
- Stressed or anxious
- Lack of energy
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Sleep problems
- Physical aches and pains
- Social withdrawal
These are some common symptoms to look for, but it’s important to remember that everyone experiences winter depression differently. If you think you might be suffering from winter depression, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They can help you make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.
Is Winter A Cause Of Depression?
The short answer is: yes, winter can be a cause of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of clinical depression that occurs during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight. SAD affects an estimated half a million people in the United States each year.
This feeling of sadness and despair can be so intense that it interferes with your ability to function at work or school, and can even make it difficult to take care of yourself. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor or mental health professional.
There are several possible causes of SAD, but the most likely one is winter which can lead to depression. Because it might be hard to get out and about during the winter, people can become isolated and lonely. This isolation can be a trigger for depression.
Therefore, if you are struggling with any type of depression, it is important to seek help. Depression is a serious condition that can be effectively treated with medication and/or therapy. If you think you might be depressed, talk to your doctor or mental health professional.
What Are Some Triggers?
There are some causes and possible triggers of winter depression. These include:
- A drop in serotonin levels: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. A drop in serotonin levels may play a role in SAD. For example, people with SAD may have a deficiency of serotonin in the winter.
- A change in circadian rhythms: The reduced level of sunlight in winter can disrupt the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm. This can cause fatigue and make it hard to function during the day.
- A vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight. It’s also found in some foods, such as fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk. A vitamin D deficiency may contribute to winter depression.
- A history of depression: If you’ve had depression in the past, you may be more likely to experience it again in the winter.
- A family history of SAD: This comes under genetic disposition. If anyone in your family has SAD, you may be more likely to develop it.
While these are some common causes, there are some triggers that can make winter depression worse. These include:
- Certain personality types: People who tend to worry a lot or who are perfectionists may be more prone to SAD.
- A change in routine: For example, if you usually work long hours during the week and have weekends off, but your work schedule changes and you have to work on weekends, this can trigger SAD.
- Increased stress: It is common for people to experience increased stress during the holiday season. This can trigger SAD in susceptible individuals.
- Lack of social interaction: Wintertime often means less time spent with friends and family. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can worsen symptoms of SAD.
- Financial problems: The added expenses of the holidays can cause financial stress, which can trigger SAD.
Overall, these are a few key points to keep in mind when it comes to winter depression. It is important to be aware of the possible causes and triggers so that you can take steps to prevent or manage the condition. If you think you may be suffering from SAD, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
How Does It Impact Life?
This type of depression can make everyday activities feel more difficult. Some common negative consequences are:
- Decreased productivity at work or school
- Trouble concentrating
- Isolation from friends and family
- Increased irritability or restlessness
- Overeating or appetite changes
- Sleep problems, such as insomnia or oversleeping
These are very common consequences that one can have with depression, in winter depression some might be more prone to experience these things. You might also get certain other complications with this condition, such as:
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Other type of depression
- Sleep disorders
It is important to keep in mind that if you are struggling with any of these things, you are not alone and there are many people out there that understand what you’re going through. There are also many resources available to help get through this tough time.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Diagnosis is based on criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association and provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders.
To be diagnosed with SAD, you must have had major depressive episodes that:
- Occur during the fall or winter months (September to April in the Northern Hemisphere), and remit during the spring or summer.
- More common during the years you live further from the equator.
- Begin before age 21.
- Have occurred during at least two consecutive winters, with no nonwinter depressive episodes in between.
- Are not better explained by another mental disorder, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
With these things and a few others ruled out, if you and your doctor feel that SAD is the cause of your depression, they can make a diagnosis. SAD can be diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker. A complete evaluation will include:
- Medical history to rule out other causes of your symptoms
- Psychological evaluation to assess your thoughts, feelings, and behavior
- Discussion of your symptoms
Therefore, with an accurate and complete evaluation, you can be ready to develop a treatment plan as per your needs.
How Can You Treat Winter Depression?
There are a few things you can do to help treat winter depression. Usually, it is divided into self-help and professional help.
If you have mild winter depression, self-help might be enough. You can try:
- Exercising regularly: It is important to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Doing some outdoor activities can also help you get some vitamin D, which can help improve your mood.
- Eating a healthy diet: Eating a balanced diet and avoiding processed foods can help improve your mood.
- Getting enough sleep: It is important to get at least eight hours of sleep every night.
- Limiting your alcohol intake: Drinking alcohol can actually make your depression worse.
- Spending time outdoors: This is especially important if you live in a place with long winters. Getting some fresh air and sunshine can help improve your mood.
- Talking to your loved ones: As isolation is the main trigger for winter depression, talking to your loved ones can help you feel less alone.
If you have severe winter depression, you might need to see a professional. There are a few different types of treatment that can be effective, such as:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This type of therapy can help you change the negative thoughts that are associated with your depression.
- Light therapy: This involves exposure to artificial light, which can help improve your mood. It works through a process called phototherapy.
- Antidepressants: These can be effective in treating winter depression, but they should be prescribed by a doctor. Antidepressants are the most common type of medication used to treat this condition.
- Vitamin D supplements: If you are not getting enough vitamin D from the sun, you might need to take supplements. This can help improve your mood.
If you are struggling with winter depression, it is important to seek help. There are many resources available to you, and there is no shame in seeking treatment. With the right help, you can improve your mood and start enjoying the winter months again.
More often, people tend to experience the winter blues rather than full-blown winter depression. The winter blues are more common and less severe, but they can still make you feel down. If you are struggling with the winter blues, there are a few things you can do to help improve your mood. But in severe cases, only a professional can provide you with the right guidance.
To conclude, winter depression can manifest itself in many ways. And, it’s different from person to person. Some people may feel a little down during the winter while others may have more serious symptoms. But, there are things that you can do to help ease your winter depression. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be suffering from winter depression or seasonal affective disorder.
And, try out some of the tips above to help improve your mood during the winter months. With the right help, you can get through winter depression and enjoy the season.
For more information and guidance please get in touch with our expert therapists at Therapy Mantra. They will be more than happy to assist you on your journey to recovery. Contact us today to learn more about our services. You can also book an online therapy session or download our free Android or iOS app.