Is it “Winter Blues” or Something More? sarah December 28, 2023

Is it “Winter Blues” or Something More?

MY LIFE MAGAZINE - Winter 2023-2024
Seasonal Affective Disorder can impact your mood and daily life

By Dr. Lauren Jones 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression. It’s called Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern because it begins and ends during the same seasons every year. About 1 in every 20 people experience SAD, mostly during fall and winter. For people with this depressive disorder, scientists believe winter’s shorter days and decreased sunlight might lead to changes in the body’s internal clock and the brain chemicals that affect mood.  

SAD can cause a person to feel exhausted and out of sync with their usual daily schedule. Changes in brain chemicals can also make it harder to feel positive, be in a good mood, or find motivation to start or complete daily tasks. Seasonal Affective Disorder is more than just the “winter blues” and longing for spring and sunshine to return. Symptoms of SAD are similar to other forms of depression and not something you should ignore when you notice them.   

Signs of SAD can be mild or severe and can include the following symptoms:  
  • Feeling sad, down or having a depressed mood most of the day, most days for two weeks 
  • Losing interest or pleasure in activities you usually enjoy 
  • Problems sleeping – usually sleeping too much 
  • Appetite changes – usually eating more and craving carbohydrates, sometimes with weight gain 
  • Feeling sluggish or having low energy 
  • Increased movements that don’t have a clear purpose, like pacing or handwringing. It can also include slowed movements or speech that are slow enough for other people to notice a change.  
  • Having difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions 
  • Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless 
  • Having thoughts about death or ending your life 

There are several treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), including medication, light therapy, and cognitive behavioral talk therapy.  It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms to find out if you have SAD and get the treatments you need to live and feel better.  

A woman with long red hair and a long-sleeved blouse looks out a window with a sad expression.
Photo of a woman wearing dark-rimmed glasses and a pink cardigan sweater smiling at the camera
Dr. Lauren Jones is a psychological supports manager for Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services.

A person with SAD or other types of depression might feel guilty, hopeless, or worthless, and might have thoughts of death or ending their life. If you or someone you know has thoughts about suicide, this is a mental health emergency, and you should call 988. You can also text 988 at any time to reach counselors who can help. Call 911 if you or someone you know is in danger or needs medical help right away.