For some people, winter is a delightful season full of family time, snow days and cuddling up with a cup of hot chocolate. For others, winter signals a bewildering time of sadness, also known as the "winter blues."
The "winter blues" only comes during a portion of the year, usually October through April. Experts believe the shorter days of winter and the lack of sunlight can cause your body to produce too much melatonin (making you sleepier) and not enough serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate your mood.
The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that 20 percent of Americans have the mild form of winter blues, while 4 to 6 percent of Americans suffer from a more severe version of the condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Symptoms of SAD can be debilitating. They include:
Seasonal affective disorder is most commonly diagnosed in women of childbearing age. The condition is less common as people age. Women are four times more likely to have SAD than men. Besides gender and age, other risk factors for SAD include family history (if your other family members have had seasonal affective disorder or other depressive disorders) and geography, meaning the further north or south of the equator, the higher your risk of developing SAD.
If the self-help tips listed above don't improve your condition, it's important to talk with your primary care provider. He or she may discuss the use of antidepressants or refer you to a behavioral health specialist.
Above all, don't lose hope! The winter blues and SAD are treatable, and with the proper help, you can get back to enjoying your normal activities in as little as a few weeks.
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