Wintertime can be tough, and this year is even tougher with many COVID-19 restrictions still in place.
Those who experience severe sadness during the colder months could be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which can begin as early as late fall and last through winter.
“A decrease in sunlight lowers normal levels of serotonin — the mood-balancing hormone. This change may play a role in patients suffering from SAD,” said Inpatient Psychiatric Unit Nurse Director Saida Abdul-Aziz, DHA.C, MSN, MBA-HCM, RN, FCN.
Loss of serotonin can disrupt the body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
“The change in seasons can also disrupt the balance of our melatonin levels,” said Abdul-Aziz. “Melatonin is essential for sleep patterns and mood.”
Symptoms of SAD include multiple days of deep sadness, overeating and weight gain, or losing your appetite and weight loss, withdrawing from social activities, and sleeping more than normal.
“Take the signs and symptoms of SAD as serious as clinical depression,” Abdul-Aziz said. “Just like other types of depression, SAD can get worse and, if not treated, can lead to problems at school or work, substance abuse, anxiety or eating disorders.
“To help reduce the risk of SAD or alleviate the symptoms, get outside in the sun and exercise. Other treatments you can discuss with your physician may include vitamin D and light therapy.”
Abdul-Aziz closed with, “It’s normal to have some down days, but if you feel depressed for more than two weeks and aren’t motivated to participate in activities you normally enjoy, you should get evaluated for SAD.”
If you are experiencing symptoms of SAD or depression, call one of our SMC Health Physicians offices in Woodstown at 856-624-4319, Pennsville at 856-678-9002, or Swedesboro at 856-832-4359. For a list of all SMC Primary Care Physicians, visit smc.health and click on “Physician Directory.”