In the parts of the country currently in the depths of winter, people may be experiencing cases of the “winter blues.”
Very often people notice increases moodiness and a lack of energy beginning in fall and lasting through the winter. This may be due to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder most commonly occurs during the winter and fall, but can also be experienced during the summer. According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of SAD (quite an appropriate acronym) that occurs during fall and winter are similar to those of other depressive disorders: depression, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, heaviness in the arms or legs, social withdrawal, oversleeping, loss of interest in once enjoyable activities, weight gain, appetite changes, and difficulty concentrating.
Treatment often includes phototherapy, which entails exposure to sunlight, if possible, or light boxes which are specially designed for treatment, filter out damaging UV rays, have been shown by research to be as effective as antidepressants, and exhibit a more rapid onset of effectiveness than antidepressants. SAD appears to be more and more common the further one is from the equator, perhaps as a factor of the amount of sunlight and/or the exposure to longer periods of sunlight. It is no wonder, then, that Hawaii and other locations close to equator are such hot vacation hotspots and that there is a higher cost of living.
Going to the beach does sound like a great idea right about now!
For more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder, including treatment and prevention, visit the Mayo Clinic’s website. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195
Psychology Practicum Student