Depression in Winter

I just had someone say that their mood was low, and they often feel blue during the Winter. Their friends say they usually cheer up in the Spring, but that seems too long to wait. They asked me - what is happening?

My answer? Our minds are complex! You probably know about Seasonal Affective Disorder, or “SAD”. SAD is a type of depression that starts and stops around the same time every year. For most people, symptoms (e.g. sadness, moodiness, lack of pleasure, and changes in sleep, appetite, energy or motivation) begin in the Fall and continue into the Winter.

However, not all Winter sadness is SAD. In other words, just because a depressive episode is happening during the Winter does not mean it is seasonally related. You cannot count on it to spontaneously resolve during the Spring. You may be surprised to hear that suicide rates are highest during the Spring/early Summer months, and lowest during the Winter.

So, what to do? No matter the time of year, prioritizing your mental and physical health is critical. Finding activities for each season, maintaining relationships, pursuing cherished goals: these are some of the ways people care for themselves. Of course, if your symptoms are significantly impairing your ability to do these things – or if you are doing these things and not feeling better – it may be time to talk to your doctor. There are many treatments available! Whatever your philosophy about mental health, is it likely you could find options that would appeal to you.