Cabin Fever or Real Fever? Why Seasonal Affective Disorder Hits Harder During Colder Weather
While some people love fall and winter because of the cooler temperatures, fallen leaves, crisp snow, and holiday cheer, many people find themselves struggling with their mental health during the colder months. A common cause is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that occurs with the changing of the seasons and begins and ends at around the same time every year – especially during the colder months. Most people with SAD experience their symptoms beginning in the fall and continuing into the winter months. During this time, they typically feel moody and zapped of energy. Other symptoms include:
Feeling depressed most of the day, almost every day
Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
Changes in appetite or weight
Feeling tired or agitated
Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty
Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
Why Is SAD More Common During the Fall and Winter?
While some people may experience SAD during the spring and summer months, it is much more common during the fall and winter. The specific cause of SAD is unknown but the disorder is believed by many medical professionals to be connected to shortened levels of sunlight and shorter days. Less sun and shorter days can cause the following issues, which can trigger SAD:
Disruption of the biological clock (circadian rhythm) – The body’s internal clock may be disrupted, leading to feelings of depression.
A drop in serotonin levels – Reduced sunlight can also trigger a drop in serotonin, the chemical in the brain that regulates mood. A drop in serotonin can lead to depression.
Melatonin levels – The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s melatonin levels, impacting sleep patterns and mood. This is because the body produces more melatonin when it’s dark outside, therefore shorter and darker days mean more sleep-inducing melatonin.
How Is SAD Treated?
Treatment for SAD may include:
Light therapy – Also known as phototherapy, light therapy involves sitting a few feet away from a special light box within the first hour of waking up each day. This type of therapy is meant to mimic natural outdoor light and is believed to cause a change in the brain’s chemicals that are linked to mood.
Medications – If SAD symptoms are severe, an antidepressant such as a slow-release version of bupropion can be a beneficial treatment.
Talk therapy – A form of talk therapy known as cognitive therapy can help a SAD sufferer identify negative thoughts and behaviors, find healthy coping mechanisms, and learn to manage stress.
SAD can also be treated at home by making the environment sunnier and brighter, exercising, and going outside for walks or leisurely activities.
Quality At-Home Care
SAD is a disorder that affects your mental health. However, mental health struggles can manifest in physical ways, such as in the form of headaches, body aches, and physical pain. If you’re unsure if these physical ailments are symptoms of SAD or something else, you should seek medical advice. DispatchHealth brings thorough evaluations and excellent treatments for physical ailments right to your door and can treat anything an urgent care clinic can. We also accept most health insurance plans, which makes our services affordable.
For life-threatening and time-sensitive injuries and illnesses, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. DispatchHealth shouldn’t be used in a life-threatening emergency and doesn’t replace a primary care provider.