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Winter Depression: Dealing With Seasonal Affective Disorder

0272623001569960238.jpgDid you know that today is known as Blue Monday - aka the gloomiest day of the year? In 2005, Dr Cliff Arnall, formerly of Cardiff University, came up with a light-hearted formula for predicting the gloomiest day of the year based on factors including weather, debts, time since Christmas and motivation. Based on his formula, that day is the third Monday in January. 

Blue Monday is not a clinical term or a day officially acknowledged by psychologists, but depression during winter IS. While depression has many forms and can occur during any time, there is a form of depression that is specific to the Winter months -- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD is a biological and mood-disturbing process that's directly linked to changes in the seasons. Kurlansik et al (2013) report that most of the population suffering from SAD (around 5%) feel the effects in Fall, carrying through Winter, with remission occurring in the Spring and even Summer. Symptoms can exist for as much as 40% of the year. But what is SAD, and how can those who suffer from it counteract its effects?

Understanding SAD

SAD, at its most basic level, is Winter-onset depression. It can be as minor as not feeling like yourself during the colder months -- less motivated, less happy, less interested in going out and doing your favorite things. It can also be a larger change, such as not wanting to get out of bed, not wanting to go to work, or even harmful self-thoughts. If you are familiar with depression and have a history of it, then you may be able to see the similarities between depression and SAD. 

Could you have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

While I encourage you to get a  proper diagnosis from a professional, you may be able to answer some of these questions to determine if speaking with someone about SAD is the right move for you:

  • Have you noticed that your depression typically comes at around the same time of year?
  • Does your mood seem directly tied with the weather, especially when days are more overcast or cloudy?
  • Do you have a family history of depression?
  • Do you find that your "spirits lift" or you feel "like your old self again" when Spring rolls around?

If you believe that SAD may be something you experience, I encourage you to contact me. You are not alone and you do not have to feel this way. There are multiple therapies available to you and I am here to help you on your journey to enjoying your life again - even in winter months! 

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