It is not a clinical diagnosis but rather a common term used to describe feelings of low energy, sadness, or a slight decrease in motivation during the colder and darker months of the year.
These feelings are generally considered to be a normal reaction to the changes in daylight and weather that occur in winter. While the symptoms of winter blues can be uncomfortable, they usually don’t significantly impair a person’s ability to function in daily life.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD is a complex depressive illness. It is most likely triggered by the lack of sunlight in winter, which affects levels of hormones (melatonin and serotonin) in the part of the brain controlling mood, sleep and appetite – our circadian rhythms.
Because “traditional” depression usually comes with sleeping problems and reduced appetite, SAD is associated with a yearning to “hibernate”. It’s normal to be affected by the changing of seasons or weather. For example, you may find your mood dips and your sleeping patterns change from one season to the next.
People affected commonly have a strong increased desire to sleep and eat, with a craving for carbohydrates, comfort food and sweet treats.
Symptoms of SAD are wide-ranging and can include depression, lack of energy, concentration problems, anxiety, overeating, loss of libido, social and relationship problems and sudden mood changes or periods of hypomania (over-activity) in spring.
As such, it is best to think of SAD as a spectrum. On one end of the scale, some people are not at all affected by seasonal changes. Further along, those experiencing “winter blues” might find themselves feeling tired, grumpy and a bit down.
At the other end of the depression spectrum, though, some people may have to take time off work and drastically limit their daily routines.
When addressing symptoms related to Seasonal Affective Disorder, CBT challenges the sufferer’s perceived negative thoughts and opinions of a season. Our BABCP-accredited therapists here at Onebright offer the highest standard of CBT possible. Your therapist will encourage you to evaluate your feelings when you think about the winter months and challenge your misconceptions of what you can do during this time.
Signs of winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder
Firstly, recognise the symptoms of SAD; diagnosis can usually be made after two to three consecutive winters with the symptoms. Some of which we have listed below: