Dealing with Depression in the Winter

Some people who suffer from depression find that it gets worse in the winter. Others find that winter is actually the cause of their depression. Both are very real, but very different, forms of mental health disorder, and both can limit your ability to perform everyday functions and steal the joy of holiday traditions.

Our licensed psychologist at Genesis Family Healthcare, PLLC, Dr. Natalie Pickering, understands the frustration of dealing with depression. She helps people from all walks of life overcome their mental illness symptoms through a compassionate, holistic approach. She treats each patient as a unique individual, customizing therapies and treatments on a case-by-case basis. 

Whether you’re dealing with major depressive disorder that gets worse in winter or seasonal affective disorder that strikes in the winter months, we can help. 

What’s the difference between sadness and depression?

Feeling sad about something that happened in your life isn’t the same as being clinically depressed. Everyone goes through times of melancholy and depression, especially during times of grief. But these are temporary emotions that fade away.

Clinical depression is a mood disorder that makes you feel sad and melancholy for long periods of time and causes you to lose interest in the activities and people you once enjoyed. There are several types of depression recognized by the mental health community, including:

Although each type of depression shares similar characteristics, two, in particular, may give you trouble in the winter: MDD and SAD.

What is major depressive disorder?

This is the type of depression most people think of when they think of depression. Symptoms vary from person to person, but some common signs are:

If you suffer from MDD, the winter months can be especially difficult to handle. The holiday season is notorious for extra stress and activity. Your inability to engage may make matters worse and cause you to withdraw even more. If the holidays remind you of something you’ve lost or a loved one no longer with you, it could exacerbate your symptoms as well. 

In addition to increased activities during winter, the cold, dreary weather can also complicate MDD.

If you have major depressive disorder, ongoing psychotherapy and medication may help you get through the winter months. Our skilled psychologist can help you find the treatment that works best for your symptoms. 

Recognizing seasonal affective disorder

If you don’t feel the symptoms of depression until winter hits, you could be suffering from seasonal affective disorder, aptly called SAD. Because many of the symptoms are the same as those associated with MDD, it might be hard to tell the difference. You might think it’s connected to emotions surrounding the holidays or that it’s just a coincidence that you began experiencing symptoms in the winter. But if there’s a pattern to your seasonal symptoms, it’s probably SAD.

The main difference between MDD and SAD is the cause. SAD is thought to be triggered by lack of sunlight in the long winter months. As the days get shorter, especially in the northern parts of the planet, people are exposed to fewer hours of sunlight. For instance, 9% of Alaskans have SAD and only 1% of Floridians have it. 

Light therapy often helps relieve symptoms for those dealing with SAD. Morning light in particular is what helps people overcome it, as if your body is waking up with the dawn.

Getting help with your depression this winter

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms of depression, Dr. Pickering can help through psychotherapy, light therapy, and even medication if necessary. Call today to schedule a meeting with Dr. Pickering and get back to your old self this winter. 

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