Do I have the winter blues or am I depressed?

Ah, the winter blues. As Game of Thrones fans often quote, “Winter is coming.” Most people cherish sunshine and the summer, especially in Buffalo! I know I’m not the only one who is hearing people complain about the colder, darker days that are happening. For many, the seasonal changes are accompanied by some sadness, gloominess, and a lack of energy. Other times, these changes are accompanied by significant mood changes. Previously known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this specific type of depression impacts 1-2% of the population. The American Psychological Association (APA.org), women compared to men, and younger compared to older people are more at risk. SAD is now known as depression with seasonal pattern.

Depression with seasonal pattern is triggered by seasonal changes. Research suggests it is usually by decreased exposure to daylight. The most common is winter-onset depression. The seasonal changes produce a cycle where people tend to feel good in the sunny, warmer months. People become lethargic and depressed in the colder seasons. Other symptoms include a loss of energy, hypersomnia, overeating, weight gain, and a craving for carbohydrates.  This seasonal pattern specifier does not apply to all situations. Patterns of depressive episodes are better explained by stressors linked to certain seasons. Typical examples of these seasons are starting school in the fall, holidays around winter time, seasonal unemployment. 

What are the Winter Blues?

Many people feel “blue” in the winter. Clients report feeling more lethargic and having comfort food cravings. Those with depression with a seasonal pattern may struggle to perform activities of daily life. A great deal is left to be researched to understand the cause of this pattern of depression. Many believe it’s related to exposure to daylight. Consumer products such as Sun lamps exist and can be found on Amazon. Physicians, psychiatrists, & nurse practitioners may be willing to prescribe them if you’d like to try to get them through insurance. An abundance of research suggests that light therapy can be helpful in reducing some symptoms. This is especially true when combined with talk therapy. Light therapy uses specially designed lamps that provide more intense light than typical household light bulbs. Recommended dosages and times depend on your presentation and symptomology. 

Are you interested in learning more about “winter blues” and/or about depression with or without a seasonal pattern? Explore What’s Next is here to help! Are you near me in the Buffalo area? I invite you to call me and we can set up a time to meet!