Many of us feel down when winter rolls around – the days are shorter, the weather turns bad, and we fall victim to illnesses like colds and the flu. But for many people, winter brings with it a clinical set of depressive symptoms known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). This “winter depression” is recognized by medical and psychological professionals and affects around 2% of people. It involves an intensely depressed mood throughout the winter season and can lead to sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. How can you tell whether you’ve got a normal case of the winter blues or you’re suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder?
You’re Gaining Weight
Many people gain weight during the Christmas period, but those who suffer from winter depression tend to start craving sugary and starchy foods as soon as winter rolls around. This generally leads to weight gain that occurs every winter and tapers off when the season changes, so gaining weight throughout the winter months could be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
You Feel Excessively Tired
If you find yourself feeling tired all the time or having trouble sleeping during the winter months, you might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Maybe you feel like you just can’t get a good night’s sleep, or you’re tired even when you’ve slept for eight hours Sleep problems and fatigue are common symptoms of SAD and they affect most sufferers during winter.
You’ve Lost Interest In Life
People with Seasonal Affective Disorder re port that they lose interest in life during winter. If you can’t muster up any enthusiasm for socializing or your hobbies, it may be because SAD is affecting your motivation. It is also common for people with winter depression to experience a diminished sex drive.
You’re More Irritable
Irritability is a common symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder, so if you find that you have a shorter fuse and are easily angered during the winter months, you might be suffering from more than the standard winter blues. Keep track of your moods and try to pinpoint whether you are justifiably annoyed or becoming more irritable because of the season.
You Fit The Risk Factors
Certain characteristics are more common in people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, such as living particularly far north or south from the equator, being a younger adult (most people diagnosed with SAD are between 18 and 35 years old), having relatives who suffer from winter depression, or being female (women are 3 times more likely to have SAD).
It Happens Every Winter
To be clinically diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, you must have experienced these symptoms for 2 or more years in a row, but many people find that this depression has affected them for most of their adult lives. If you aren’t affected every year, it might be a sign that something else is causing your low mood.
If you recognize some of these warning signs then consult a medical professional and remember that there are ways to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder such as light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication. These treatments can be very successful if you realize that you are suffering from SAD as opposed to a normal case of winter blues