Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder and the “Winter Blues”

Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder

Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder and the “Winter Blues”

Since winter has started, do you find yourself feeling more irritable than usual?

Do you wish you could stay in bed all day?

Do you lack the energy or desire to get anything done?

If you are feeling lethargic, depressed, or are having disturbances in your sleep you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

While many individuals experience the “Winter Blues,” individuals with SAD are managing a true mental health condition that often requires treatment with a mental health professional. Symptoms of SAD generally arise at the beginning of a season and dissipate over the course of a season.1 about 5 percent of adults in the U.S. experience SAD and it is more common among women than men.2

It is important that if you believe you have symptoms of SAD that you seek guidance from a trained medical or mental health professional. There are various recommended treatment courses depending on the nature of your symptoms. With the right approach, SAD is generally a manageable condition.

Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Numerous factors appear to contribute to the development of SAD. These include personal as well as environmental factors. Importantly, the change of season (and thus reduction of sunlight) affects one’s circadian rhythm, or biological clock, which impacts mood.

Medication, phototherapy (structured bright light exposure), and psychotherapy are all effective options for those managing the symptoms of SAD, but there are also many activities that you can do for yourself to begin to feel better.

Simple Tips to Help Treat Seasonal Mood Fluctuations:

1) Minimize Blue Light. You may already know the basics of good sleep hygiene — such as sleeping in a cool room and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed. Minimizing exposure to blue light from computer and phone screens within 2 hours of going to bed has also been shown to help you sleep more restfully.3

2) Let the Sunshine In. It’s time to redecorate – and not just for the holidays! Exposure to daylight has been shown to help lessen the symptoms of SAD.4 Making room for maximum light exposure in your home can be as simple as opening the blinds or moving furniture. You might also reposition chairs so that you are sitting in the brightest spots whenever possible.

3) Talk to a Professional. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in treating SAD. Individuals utilizing a CBT approach in therapy have shown a remission rate of 47%.5 A CBT approach to SAD focuses on changing negative thoughts about the winter while encouraging engaging in pleasurable activities. Finding ways to enjoy the winter season can go a long way!

AbleTo provides cognitive behavioral therapy as well as coaching sessions from the comfort, privacy, and convenience of your own home at the time, day or night, that works best for your schedule. In many cases, AbleTo is covered by your insurance with little to no out-of-pocket expense.

AbleTo can help.

There is a lot you can do yourself, but sometimes you just need personal support. Let our behavior coaches and therapists give you one-on-one tailored help.

Call us at 833-498-5360, Monday-Friday 10am-8pm EST or Saturday 10am-6pm EST. Or request a call and we'll call when it is convenient for you.

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If you feel your depression is severe or if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, consult a doctor immediately or seek help at the closest emergency room. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651
  2. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder
  3. https://m2.healio.com/~/media/journals/jpn/2017/11_november/10_3928_02793695_20171016_03/10_3928_02793695_20171016_03.pdf
  4. https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/illnesses-linked-vitamin-d-deficiency/
  5. https://www.research.va.gov/currents/spring2015/spring2015-23.cfm