WINTER BLUES AND SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER

HOW DOES IT FEEL?

  • Significant & lasting downturn of mood
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Overeating or weight gain
  • Sleeping too much, difficulty waking up or staying awake
  • Apathy; loss of feelings
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness   
  • Less energy
  • Boredom
  • Cravings for carbohydrates
  • Less interest in being around others
  • Less interest in activities one used to like
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing

COMPARING WINTER BLUES, SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER, AND MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER?

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of clinical depression that occurs during winter months
  • The winter blues are a subclinical (or mild) version of SAD
  • SAD and the winter blues dissipate on their own during the spring and summer months
  • To be diagnosed as having SAD, rather than major depressive disorder (MDD), one must have a pattern of recurring depression during the winter months
  • To be diagnosed with SAD or MDD, one must have 5/9 clinical symptoms for at least 2 weeks that are impacting your quality of life or a major area of functioning
  • About 5% of American adults experience SAD (APA, 2020), whereas about 10-20% of American adults experience the winter blues.

WHAT CAUSES MOOD CHANGE IN WINTER?

  • Biochemical imbalances brought on by shortening daylight hours and lack of sunlight in winter
  • Sunlight influences mood: When it is light, melatonin (sleep hormone) decreases and serotonin (hormone related to wakefulness and elevated mood) increases. Light stimulates the production of vitamin D, which helps the body maintain serotonin levels during the winter.

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS?

  • Limited light exposure
  • Younger age and female
  • Distance from the equator
  • Predisposition to clinical depression
  • Feeling let down after the holidays

PREVENTING THE WINTER BLUES:

  • Exposure to light, particularly 1st thing in the morning
  • Consistent, positive routines that include healthy eating, exercise, and getting enough sleep
  • Plan enjoyable activities and ways of maintaining a connection with your social supports

WHAT DO I DO IF I THINK I MIGHT HAVE THE WINTER BLUES?

  • Consult a health professional: Symptoms of SAD can be confused with other medical conditions, so it’s important to get an evaluation from a medical professional
  • Light therapy: Exposure to natural light or a “lightbox,” particularly in the morning
  • Psychotherapy
  • Medication

HOW TO GET HELP

Free, confidential counseling is available at the University Counseling Center, 206 Health Services Building, 610-519-4050.

SELF-ASSESSMENT TOOL

For informational purposes only, the University Counseling Center offers access to online, anonymous Self-Assessment Tools. These resources are provided by third-parties unaffiliated with Villanova and the results are not shared with the University. These screenings are not a substitute for a complete evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. For personal assistance, please call the Counseling Center at 610-519-4050 for an appointment.

EMERGENCY CONTACTS

 

In an emergency, call Villanova Public Safety at 610-519-4444.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 988