Winter Depression: How Do You Know If You Have It?
We all have those days when we feel more down than usual, but how do you know if you’re just having a bad day or suffering from something more serious, like winter depression? More people start to get depressed during the winter months than you may realize and, though the symptoms differ from person to person, there are a few warning signs to look out for.
Winter Depression Is Real
We all talk about having the “winter blues”, yet most of us brush it off as something that’s not “real”. But getting depressed in the winter is real and it’s a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (shortened to SAD). The truth is that the levels of daylight we get affect our natural rhythms. In winter, they can go out of synch, causing a number of symptoms.
Symptoms of Winter Depression?
The symptoms of winter depression are extremely varied, and everyone will experience it differently. A few of the symptoms you may have include:
- Feeling worthless, guilty, or having low self esteem,
- Crying a lot,
- Feeling anxious and stressed,
- Reduced sex drive,
- Feeling more tired than usual and sleeping more,
- Weight gain,
- Lack of energy
- Increased appetite,
- Craving unhealthy food.
Another strong symptom, in addition to those above (most of which are also symptoms of depression in general) is finding that you get these symptoms at the same time each year. This is a clear sign that your depression is related to the winter season. The symptoms may slowly begin during autumn, and get worse into winter when the daylight hours decrease.
What Causes Winter Depression?
It can also help to be aware of the various causes of seasonal depression, to help determine whether you’re at risk. There is no one cause, but there are known factors that contribute to the likelihood of developing it.
The levels of sunlight you get each day affect certain hormones in the brain. Some theories state that sunlight affects the hormones responsible for mood, sleep and appetite. This is why you may get some of the symptoms above when sunlight levels decrease.
Melatonin: Another factor related to light levels is the amount of melatonin our bodies produce. This is the hormone responsible for sleep, and more of it is produced when it’s dark, causing us to feel sleepy.
Serotonin: When you get less sunlight, your body produces less serotonin. Serotonin affects your mood, sleep and appetite – people who are depressed tend to have less of this hormone.
Circadian Rhythm: This is responsible for our “internal clock” that lets us know when we need to sleep and wake up each day. This can get disrupted when the levels of sunlight we get every day change.
As you can see, winter depression is a very real condition that can affect many different areas of your life. You really aren’t alone if you experience this kind of depression, and your doctor will be able to point out various treatment options.