Every year thinking about the winter makes me sad and depressed
Hi. It’s Jenny at AnxietyBoss.com. Our question today is from George in Ontario. It’s summertime here in Canada and every year thinking about the winter makes me sad and depressed. I’ve tried to think positive, but I can’t get over the fact that the next six to seven months it will be snow everywhere. It will be hard to drive and it will get dark around 4 p.m. What can I do to get over this?
If you experience recurrent depressive symptoms during certain seasons every year, then you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression. Most often, the depressive symptoms in SAD start in the fall, and worsen through the winter months. Less common in SAD are depressive symptoms in the spring and summer.
Symptoms associated with depression, or major depressive disorder (MDD), include:
- Low moods
- Lack of feeling pleasure
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Feelings of guilt
- Low energy level
- Poor concentration
- Appetite changes
- Changes in motor activity
- Suicidal ideations
There are addition symptoms to the above depressive symptoms that characterize SAD:
- Very low energy level
- Eating too much
- Weight gain
- Carbohydrate cravings
There is a question whether or not SAD is more associated with MDD or bipolar disorder. The depressive symptoms of SAD tend to be similar to the depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder, where there is very low energy, oversleeping, overeating, weight gain, and carbohydrate cravings.
The risk factors for developing SAD include:
- Distance from the equator is proportional to risk for SAD
In other words, the further you are away from the equator, the more risk for SAD
- Younger people have a higher risk of SAD
- Females are more at risk for winter SAD (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)
If you have repeated depressive symptoms every winter, then you should consider counteracting the depression by:
- Increasing your exposure to daylight
Open all the windows at home and at your office, as you need daylight exposure, to counteract the decrease in daylight in the winter. Also, going for walks will help to absorb more daylight.
Exercise can help improve your moods. Embracing winter sports like skiing and ice skating can help you to exercise, absorb more daylight, and have more fun.
- Regular sleep wake cycle
As you will tend to oversleep in the winter, stick to a regular sleep and wake schedule, and try to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
For severe cases of winter depression, you should see your doctor for consideration of antidepressant medication, light therapy, and/or psychotherapy.