Dark mornings making it difficult to get out of bed? Exhausted by the time you finish your lunch? Going to sleep earlier but still feeling like you have no energy?
As the winter season approaches, many people begin to experience a shift in their mental health. For some, this can be more than just feeling a bit blue — it can mean struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a serious condition that affects about 5 percent of the U.S. population every year, and every 4 out of 5 people with SAD are women.
But knowing what SAD is and how to treat it can help enhance your mental and physical well-being during the cold, winter months.
SAD is a type of depression triggered by the loss of ultraviolet light and vitamin D that accompanies shorter days and less natural light in the winter. Even for those who get outside regularly in the winter, the decreased intensity of the sun’s rays can lead to SAD. Often, the most difficult months are January and February. SAD can affect people of any age, but usually begins between the ages of 18–30.
The symptoms of SAD vary from person to person and can be physical, mental or emotional. Symptoms can include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, stress, anxiety, fatigue, changes in appetite that often lead to weight gain or loss, as well as changes in sleep patterns and energy levels. These symptoms can lead to decreased productivity, loss of interest in activities that normally bring joy and difficulty thinking or concentrating.
Although symptoms can improve on their own with time and the changing of the seasons, treating SAD and finding the right support can help you get through the cold, dark winter days.
“The good news is we have effective ways to treat the symptoms of SAD,” said Dr. Kari M. Wolf, CEO of the BHWC and Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at SIU School of Medicine:
Winter can be a difficult season to navigate; however, being aware of the symptoms related to Seasonal Affective Disorder and taking extra care of yourself physically and mentally can help you find the right treatment to better your well-being during the winter reason. Always make sure to talk to your doctor about your symptoms to see what other recommendations they may have to benefit your mental health.
To increase access to effective behavioral health services through coordinated initiatives to recruit, educate, and retain professionals in behavioral health.