With days getting shorter and the holiday season looming, many of us may feel a little depressed or downtrodden at this time of year.
However, if you are feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day, and are experiencing low energy levels with high levels of irritability, you may be experiencing a little more than holiday stress, you may have seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, can occur in any season with symptoms similar to regular depression.
Symptoms specific to fall and winter SAD include a general depressed mood; not enjoying activities like you normally do; oversleeping; appetite changes (especially a craving foods high in carbohydrates); and weight gain.
Maj. Stacey Krauss, a psychologist at Womack Army Medical Center, said that if the season seems to be affecting your mood, there are steps you can take to help alleviate the symptoms.
“Even though it’s cold, you need to make sure you’re still engaging in aerobic exercise,” she said. “Taking a walk outside can also help, as well as ensuring healthy sleep practices. Make sure that when it’s time to sleep that you’re comfortable and you’re limiting your exposure to electronic devices emitting blue lights like your phone or a television.”
She also mentioned devices that gradually increase light as you awaken, helping keep your sleep cycle on track during the winter months.
If you’re experiencing prolonged periods of depression, Krauss said that it’s important to have a conversation with a health care provider. Treatment options for SAD include therapy, light boxes and/or medication.
“SAD shares a lot of features with other forms of depression,” said Krauss, who also serves as the program director for the Clinical Psychology Internship Program. “Everyone has days where they feel a little down, but if you’re experiencing ongoing periods of depression or you’re having trouble getting motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, you should see your primary care provider or talk to someone at behavioral health.”
If you’re experiencing a crisis, or have a friend or Family member in crisis, don’t deal with it alone. The Military Crisis Line is available 24/7 by calling 800-273-TALK (8255) or by texting 838255.