Winter Got You Down? You May Be SAD

Mayo Clinic News Network

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) SAD symptoms typically come on during the fall and winter months and reliably go away during the spring and summer months. Common SAD symptoms include sleeping more, feeling dragged out, low-energy and the craving for junk or comfort foods.

Mayo Clinic News Network

At this time of year, with daylight and sunshine in short supply, you may feel more like hibernating than heading outdoors to play in the snow.

If you do, you’re not alone. Those of us who live in northern states are no strangers to the “winter blues,” which is a mild version of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). About 15 percent of the population may struggle with winter blues. Studies have shown that nearly 10 percent of people in New Hampshire have been diagnosed with SAD, but it affects only about 1 percent in Florida, the Sunshine State.

SAD tends to be more common in women, young adults and those who work night shifts. It also has been found to run in families. SAD symptoms typically come on during the fall and winter months and reliably go away during the
spring and summer months. Common SAD symptoms include:

-Sleeping more, but not sleeping well

-Feeling dragged out, low-energy and unmotivated

-Craving junk or comfort food

-Gaining weight

-Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed

-Not being able to focus

-Avoiding social activities

While many of us experience these symptoms to some degree, when they become disabling or make it difficult for you to function, you should contact your care team. If you already suffer from depression, SAD can make your symptoms worse. While there’s no exact cause of SAD, researchers have found it may be linked to:

-Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.

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