Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, winter depression is a condition that starts around the end of fall. Its effects carry through into the winter, eventually giving way as spring begins.
According to Mental Health America, around 5-percent of the population experiences winter depression. You’re more likely to encounter it if you’re female. If you are a sufferer, your first incident will arrive between the ages of 20 and 30.
If winter depression is something you suffer from, now’s the time to start preparing for it. By understanding more about it, you can keep the symptoms at bay. Or, if you have a family member who suffers from winter depression, you could make their life easier.
What are the symptoms of winter depression?
According to the CDC, someone who has winter depression (SAD) will experience the symptoms of major depressive disorder each winter. This must happen for two years or more to receive an official diagnosis.
The symptoms of SAD can include:
- Anxiety, worrying a lot, a sense of guilt
- Feeling discontent, a lack of interest in your usual activities
- Eating more than usual or a reduced appetite
- Feeling agitated, crying for no reason, and angry outbursts
- Repeatedly going over thoughts
Some people suffering from winter depression will also lack energy. In extreme cases, suicidal feelings arise. Overall, having this condition means that your life as you know it can come to a stop, every year. So, what can you do to help yourself?
How can you combat Seasonal Affective Disorder?
If you suffer from winter depression and you’re worrying that you’ll simply feel miserable each year, don’t. While recovering from it isn’t always an easy process, there are some steps you can take to make sure winter depression has less of a negative effect on your life:
- Boost your melatonin levels with a light form box. By boosting melatonin, it’ll help with your energy levels. Additionally, it’ll aid with Vitamin D absorption, which comes with plenty of mental health benefits in itself.
- If your condition is especially severe, ask your doctor about appropriate talking therapies. Even if you don’t need a therapist at other times of the year, finding the right one can help ease you through the winter.
- You may also find that the use of an antidepressant during the winter is appropriate. Again, talk to your doctor about this. The right one can balance your serotonin levels, leaving you with fewer feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
- If you exercise, don’t abandon your usual routine. It’s a free and accessible way to boost serotonin. During the winter, you might find that you need to force motivation. But, once you’re there, you should see a significant boost in your mood.
- Try to keep a thought journal or a gratitude journal. Writing down the thoughts that make you unhappy during the winter can put them into perspective. As for the gratitude list, it’ll remind you why life is still great during the winter.
- If you can, take a vacation that allows you to see some sunshine. As well as giving you a natural boost in Vitamin D, it’ll take you away from the environment that makes SAD occur.
If you’ve experienced winter depression once, regular efforts to keep it at bay can stop it from happening again. Otherwise, each step you take will lessen its symptoms.