Did you know there is a mental health experience that can explain why someone can feel down or blue due to the season change? According to Mayoclinic.org, there are more than 3 million cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) per year. But what is it? It’s a condition where someone experiences depressive symptoms the same time of year - commonly starting in the fall and going through the winter months. Some symptoms can include increased feelings of sadness most days, low energy, difficulty sleeping, feelings of hopelessness, feeling sluggish and difficulty concentrating.
You might wonder how it’s caused. One common cause is the reduced level of sunlight, which causes serotonin levels to drop and melatonin levels to change -- this impacts sleep and disrupts your body’s internal clock, which can then increase depressive symptoms.
If this sounds like you, consider the following:
1) Light therapy - consider getting a lightbox which can mimic outdoor light to get your serotonin levels up and your melatonin levels on track.
2) Medication - consult with a prescriber to assess for this diagnosis. See what they recommend.
3) Psychotherapy - talk to a therapist about your experience and collaborate with them about what kinds of skills, supports and resources you can tap into to address this change in mood.
Even though SAD is something that can happen from year to year, you can take steps to keep your mood and mental health on track throughout the year.
Lou Lim, LMHC, REAT is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.