As the days get shorter, many people find themselves feeling sad. You might feel blue around the winter holidays, or get into a slump after the fun and festivities have ended. Some people have more serious mood changes year after year, lasting throughout the fall and winter when there’s less natural sunlight. What is it about the darkening days that can leave us down in the dumps? And what can we do about it?
NIH-funded researchers have been studying the “winter blues” and a more severe type of depression called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, for more than 3 decades. They’ve learned about possible causes and found treatments that seem to help most people. Still, much remains unknown about these winter-related shifts in mood.
“Winter blues is a general term, not a medical diagnosis. It’s fairly common, and it’s more mild than serious. It usually clears up on its own in a fairly short amount of time,” says Dr. Matthew Rudorfer, a mental health expert at NIH. The so-called winter blues are often linked to something specific, such as stressful holidays or reminders of absent loved ones.
“Seasonal affective disorder, though, is different. It’s a well-defined clinical diagnosis that’s related to the shortening of daylight hours,” says Rudorfer. “It interferes with daily functioning over a significant period of time.” A key feature of SAD is that it follows a regular pattern. It appears each year as the seasons change, and it goes away several months later, usually during spring and summer.
If you’re feeling blue this winter, and if the feelings last for several weeks, talk to a health care provider. “It’s true that SAD goes away on its own, but that could take 5 months or more. Five months of every year is a long time to be impaired and suffering,” says Rudorfer. “SAD is generally quite treatable, and the treatment options keep increasing and improving.”Read the complete article: Beat the Winter Blues.Contie, Vicki, Meghan Mott, and Harrison Wein Ph.D. "NIH News in Health." 1 Jan. 2013. News in Health. 18 Dec. 2013 <http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Jan2013/Feature1>.
Staff is available on school days during regular school hours.
Dr. James Harazin
Fridays 7:30-8:30am NC 12Tuesdays 7:30-8:30am SC A104