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senior woman with burnout in winter

Feeling SAD this time of year

This time of year is typically associated with social gatherings and merrymaking, but it can also prove to be a challenging time for those suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (or appropriately known as SAD), a type of depression that occurs usually in the winter. Some people simply characterize their feelings as being the winter blues or a seasonal dread. Symptoms typically begin in the fall and continue until spring, leaving the sufferer lethargic and moody. But don’t simply dismiss this malady as it is a common disorder and a subtype of major depression.

Specific symptoms of fall and winter depression may include:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

The exact cause of SAD is unclear, but the medical profession does know that the reduced exposure to sunlight disrupts the body’s internal clock and leads to depression. The reduction in sunlight is also responsible for an imbalance in serotonin, the chemical in your brain that affects mood. Melatonin levels which regulate sleep patterns and moods are also disrupted by the change in seasons.

Johnson County Mental Health provides resources and services for children and adults who suffer from SAD or other mental health disorders. In a related note, our Mental Health Center contributed to this article in the Kansas City Star about Becca, a survivor of attempted suicide who received the mental health help she needed. We hope you take the time to read her story.