Holidays tend to bring friends and family together, and this is
often followed by a bit of time when one can spend a little time reading
a good book, enjoying quiet evenings sitting before a fire, or just
relaxing a little. Still, at this time of year, just about everybody is
experiencing a little cabin fever, starting to think about how nice it
will be to see leaves on the trees again, flowers blooming, and nicer
But some people experience more than restlessness with the shortened
days and lack of outdoor exercise. For some, there comes a sense of
depression, an increased need to sleep, appetite changes and a great
loss of energy. There may be a sense of hopelessness, trouble with
concentration and isolation. These people could be suffering from
Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), a form of depression that
typically lifts when winter moves into spring and the days grow longer again.
While all depressions have some symptoms in common, there are also
differences. There are likewise differences in treatment approaches. If
you have noticed this pattern of winter changes which are more intense
than the sort of stress one might expect after several months of winter,
it would be wise to consult a professional to decide if you are
experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder.
It helps if you’ve noticed whether this takes place each year at
about the same time and tends to disappear as the weather gets warmer
and daylight increases. There are various things that can be done to
help with S.A.D., but because there are several forms of depression it
would be best to consult a professional who can make the best diagnosis.
S.A.D. is thought to be related to light. Therefore, a particular
sort of “lightbox” might be prescribed (a broad spectrum lamp without
harmful UV rays). Alternately, treatment might be cognitive therapy or
medication. Outdoor exercise (like skiing) can also be helpful. However,
it is important to check with someone who is experienced in being able
to differentiate the several kinds of depression, as treatment methods
differ and it is not always the case that depression in winter is S.A.D.
S.A.D. is not something “just in your mind,” nor is it just a
reaction to holiday stress. It is a true medical condition that affects many
people, mostly during the winter months, and brings great distress to
those who suffer from it, but help is available.
Copyright Kathi Whitten 2009