Helpful articles for overcoming life's challenges

Seasonal Affective Disorder

When you think of winter time in Northern Illinois what comes to mind? Some people will think of holiday parties, winter sports, cozy sweaters, and shoveling snow. But some may experience depression associated with seasonal changes that go beyond the typical winter stressors. This form of depression is commonly referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D. This experience can be difficult for an individual to manage if they have never dealt with it before or haven’t learned how to cope.

Symptoms of a Major Depressive Episode*

  • Depressed mood
  • Decreased interest or pleasure in activities
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Insomnia or Hypersomnia
  • Feelings of restlessness or alternatively, feeling slowed down
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death

The management of S.A.D. can range from at-home interventions, therapy, and/or medication depending on the severity of your symptoms.

At-home Interventions

  • Consider taking a Vitamin D supplement-Our bodies do not produce enough Vitamin D in the winter due to weather changes such as decreased sunlight. It is also very difficult to get the recommended amount of this vitamin through food alone.
  • Try and incorporate more pleasurable activities into your daily routine-Whether it’s watching a funny movie, enjoying a warm shower/bath with your favorite scented candle, or taking a “mental vacation”, these small changes can add up to an overall improved experience.
  • Invest in a light therapy device. Try and find one that emits a soft white light with as little UV rays as possible. In addition to not receiving enough Vitamin D in the winter, the decreased sunlight can affect sleep patterns and lead to sluggishness during the day. A tanning bed is not effective for light therapy.

If making small daily changes does not help to improve your mood, and you feel that your depression symptoms are heavily impacting your functioning, it may be time to try a different approach. A combination of therapy and psychiatric medication has been shown to be the most effective at treating depression.

The most important things to know are this: You are not alone and there are ways to feel better if you are willing to commit to change.

Feel free to share this information with your family and friends so they can benefit as well!

~Amanda Enger, LCPC

*These symptoms are for educational purposes only. Additional criterion are used to diagnose a Major Depressive Episode