Every November, the clocks “fall back”. The time change marks the beginning of much shorter days, which means many people will find themselves feeling sad. You might feel blue around the winter holidays, or get into a rut after the fun and festivities have ended. Some people experience serious mood changes year after year, lasting throughout the fall and winter months when there is less natural sunlight.
Winter blues is a general term, not a clinical diagnosis. It is fairly common and considered a more mild than serious condition. It usually clears up on its own and is often associated with something specific, such as stressful holidays or reminders of absent loved ones.
Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a clinical diagnosis that is related to the shortening of daylight hours. SAD interferes with daily functioning over a period of time. A key feature of SAD is that it follows a regular pattern. It appears each year as the seasons change, and it goes away usually during spring and summer.
People with SAD tend to:
1. Be withdrawn
2. Have low energy
4. Gain weight
5. Might crave carbohydrates, like cakes, candies and cookies
6. Have feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
7. Be irritable or moody
Shorter days is the main trigger for SAD. Reduced sunlight in fall and winter can disrupt your body’s internal clock. Shortened daylight hours in the winter can alter the natural rhythm between daytime hours and night. Studies have shown that light therapies relieve SAD symptoms for as much as 70 percent of people.
Growing evidence suggest that Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can also help people who have SAD. Therapists at the Mississauga Psychology Center can work with clients to identify and objectively look at negative self-defeating thoughts and reframe these thoughts into something more positive.
If you’re feeling blue this winter and if the feelings are lasting for several weeks, contact the Mississauga Psychology Centre and talk to one of our many skilled therapists. While it is true that SAD will eventually go away, that could take five months or more depending on where you live. Five months is a very long time to suffer when it is treatable.