It’s that time of year when every day seems long and dark. You’ve probably heard of winter blues —you’ve probably even felt them yourself at some point.
The winter blues—or having cold weather and shorter, darker days of winter influencing how we think or feel—are very common. It’s hard for anyone to get through a cold, dark winter without feeling dragged down by it at some point.
So, what’s the difference between the “winter blues” and a more serious seasonal depression?
Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is different, and more serious, than the winter blues. There are stronger, more consistently negative feelings. People feel more lethargic, less motivated. They are more likely to withdraw from friends and family.
Listen as Mark Gomez, MD, and his guest Dylan Panuska, PsyD, CADC, talk about SAD, mental health and how to feel better.
Myths vs. Facts
“Seasonal affective disorder only happens in the winter.” - Myth
There is also a summer pattern of seasonal affective disorder.
“Getting more vitamin D can help boost your mood.” - Fact
Your body produces its own vitamin D when it’s exposed to the sun, and a lack of sunlight is a key factor when it comes to seasonal affective disorder.
“Everyone is at equal risk of having seasonal affective disorder.” - Myth
There are factors that increase your risk, such as living in a location where there are shorter, colder, darker winter days. Women are also more likely to experience SAD, as well as younger people.
“Light therapy is a relatively inexpensive way to treat seasonal affective disorder.” - Fact
There’s an initial investment in purchasing the light box, but it can be relatively inexpensive financially. Light therapy, however, can be time-consuming.
“Your expectations can influence how effective light therapy is.” - Fact
Mind over matter is real—the light therapy is resetting our biorhythms, but if we believe it will make a difference, we may be more invested in making time to do it so we can experience the benefits.
“SAD is the same as ‘winter blues.’” - Myth
It’s not uncommon for people to feel declining energy levels with the arrival of shorter, colder days. But SAD is distinctly different and is a serious medical diagnosis.
“People suffering from SAD are depressed throughout the year.” - Myth
There can be some overlap, but the winter pattern of SAD is more intense in the winter months.
“SAD isn’t a serious condition and doesn’t require medical treatment.” - Myth
It is a serious condition in line with major depression, which is very prevalent.
“Some people with major depression, unrelated to the season, may experience an increase in symptoms during the late fall and winter.” - Fact
We all have ebbs and flows and patterns to our cycles, so there could be several changes that could increase depressive symptoms during the late fall and winter months.
Listener healthy OH-YEAH!
“Homemade chicken soup for lunch. Dinner is homemade spinach pizza.”- B.B.