SAD and Winter Blues


Every winter thousands of people feel less joyful than they normally do. The degree to which they feel down varies widely. Some experience full-blown depression while others simply seem to have the blues. Most people assume they have SAD. This may not be true, however. The treatment for SAD and the winter blues is quite different.

If you struggle with depression during the winter months, it can be tough. Finding the right treatment and diagnosis is key.

SAD Defined

SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is not the winter blues. It affects people on a regular basis. Each fall and winter, as the sky grows colder and darker, people begin to experience this depression.

Symptoms of SAD include but are not limited to:

* Depression
* Feelings of hopelessness
* Anxiety
* Social withdrawal
* Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
* Appetite changes and weight gain
* Difficulty concentrating and focusing
* Lack of energy and difficulty sleeping

If these symptoms persist for more than a few days and consistently return season after season, you probably have SAD. It’s important to see your doctor and get properly diagnosed.

Because SAD is often caused by lower levels of melatonin and serotonin, treatment for SAD often includes:

* Light therapy
* Medications
* Home therapy

There are also some home and alternative therapies like dietary changes, yoga, meditation and supplementation that have been shown to improve SAD.

Winter Blues

The winter blues is just as common as SAD; however, the symptoms don’t persist. They don’t last as long and they don’t necessarily show up like clockwork when the seasons change. The winter blues happen when a person is feeling down for a couple of days. Getting out and socializing, exercising and making a few dietary changes can alleviate the problem.

Many people experience an occasional bout of the blues. And the winter is a common time for it to creep up. The sky is dark. The air is cold. People don’t get as much fresh air and sunshine as they need.

How Do You Know If It’s the Blues or SAD?

Take a look at your symptoms. If they occur regularly, year after year, then it’s probably SAD. If your symptoms don’t go away after a few days and they persist or worsen, then it’s probably SAD. If you’re in doubt about what’s going on, always see your doctor. When it comes to your mental health it’s good to be cautious.

If you’re diagnosed with SAD, there are ways to manage the condition. If it’s the winter blues, then create a plan to stay positive. Diet and exercise improve both SAD and the winter blues, so take good care of yourself. This winter, find joy and happiness and leave depression and sadness behind!


  1. I know a few people with SAD and it is real enough for sure. One said to me recently that she felt it strange that it peaks in February instead of the winter solstice. That got me thinking. Where we are in New England, maybe it is cloudier in Jan-Feb than in October, Nov, Dec? Nope, I checked, it’s about the same. Another hypothesis (but hard to prove) – perhaps it is about accumulation. Like the proverbial straw that breaks a camel’s back. Not enough daylight (compared to June) just gets under the skin of some people more than others and it may not be “felt” at first. It just becomes overwhelming as time goes on without a real dramatic change.

    In another article you speak of light therapy. Here’s a tip. Someone gave us a Christmas gift, a bit of a joke. A 6 inch figurine of Queen Elizabeth with a hand that can wave in that famous horizontal royal way. But it is powered by solar light! On the windowsill it wiggles so much on a sunny day that it makes a noise! Perhaps such an item could be like a reminder to those that need it. Slow or non-existent royal wave, go get your full spectrum light treatment immediately!

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge