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Feeling down? How to know if it's the Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Daylight Savings has passed and it's officially getting colder and the days are shorter. It's a season of holidays, winter sports, and family time. For many, this is a fun and joyful time. So what happens when you aren't really feeling it? Where is the line between "winter blues" and seasonal affective disorder?

What is the difference between the winter blues and seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

  • Winter blues is a common experience that occurs during the winter months. The symptoms can include feeling sad, down, tired, and having lower motivation. It's not a clinical diagnosis and the symptoms don't impact your functioning at work, school, or home.

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a clinical diagnosis. It is major depressive disorder symptoms that occur in a seasonal pattern. It's not just something that occurs in winter, you can have it in summer months too. The symptoms interfere with daily life functions.

What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?

  • Feeling sad, down, or listless for most of the day, most days.

  • Having a decreased interest in the activities you usually enjoy

  • Feeling tired, exhausted, or sluggish

  • Sleeping too much

  • Craving carbohydrates, overeating, and gaining weight

  • Troubles concentrating

  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty

  • Having suicidal thoughts

What can I do to help winter blues?

Thankfully there are things that can be very helpful for improving those winter blues.

  • Get outside: Getting outside in the winter can be very beneficial for the winter blues. Taking up a winter sport is even better

  • Vitamin D: Adding Vitamin D to your regimen could be a helpful way to manage symptoms. Be sure to talk with your primary care provider before starting

  • Keep a good sleep routine: Check out our previous blog for some tips:

  • Exercise: Exercise is extremely helpful for our mental health. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day for five days of the week.

What should I do if I think I have seasonal affective disorder?

Reach out for help from a qualified mental health provider. SAD causes big disruptions in our day to day lives and you don't need to manage alone. Thankfully, we have options to help manage SAD:

  • Antidepressant medications: Antidepressants can be helpful for seasonal affective disorder. Typically, medications such as SSRIs or bupropion are used.

  • Light therapy: A provider may recommend using light therapy as a treatment strategy for SAD. It is often used as a first line treatment.

  • Psychotherapy

  • Lifestyle modifications: Various lifestyle changes such as exercise, sleep hygiene, and diet can help manage the symptoms of SAD. Be sure to undertake these changes with the guidance of a mental health provider.

Think you may struggle with seasonal affective disorder? Reach out to Northern Oak Wellness today for an evaluation. We will work together to manage your symptoms. Request a consultation here:

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