by Juana Lopez, VT Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
March 1, 2023 | Montpelier, VT - Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the winter blues is a type of depression that is related to the seasons and occurs during the same period each year. According to the article “Seasonal Affective Disorder” they can affect up to 10 percent of people in the United States depending on the location one lives (Roecklein and Rohan, 2005). This is because of the amount of sunlight that decreases during the winter months for those that live far north or south from the equator.
The main causes of SAD are unknown, however, some factors that can play into this are:
- Circadian Rhythm (Your biological clock)- The decrease of sunlight during the wintertime may disrupt your biological clock or internal body process to regulate your normal sleeping-wake cycle, possibly leading to depression.
- Serotonin levels- Reduced amount of sunlight can drop serotonin levels (brain chemicals) that normally make you feel focused, happy, and calm.
- Melatonin levels- Hormones that help with sleeping patterns and moods caused by the time of day can be affected by the season.
Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder during the wintertime may include feeling sad all day, losing interest in activities that they once enjoyed, losing energy, overeating or gaining weight, oversleeping, difficulty concentrating, and many more.
People who have severe depression or bipolar disorder are most at risk of seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder should be taken seriously and can have serious consequences if not managed. If you or someone you know is feeling this way, there are options you can take to improve your physical and mental health during this time. These include:
- Trying to make your space brighter, if possible, like adding light boxes (phototherapy) or sitting by a window while working.
- Exercising regularly can help relieve stress and lighten up your mood. ]
- Going outside, preferably during the daytime to receive as much sunlight as possible.
- Create a sleeping schedule that works for you to limit oversleeping or napping during the day.
- Talk to your physician and get diagnosed.
Contact Farm First for any questions, information, or assistance in creating a plan that fits your needs when addressing a seasonal affective disorder or other concerns.
Farm First, a Vermont-based program tries to tackle these issues by providing farm owners with confidential and personal services that best suits their needs including but not limited to financial or family concerns, illness, depression, alcoholism, etc.
For additional information and cite, please visit:
Roecklein, K. A., & Rohan, K. J. (2005). Seasonal affective disorder: an overview and update. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)), 2(1), 20–26.