Colder days and darker evenings can leave you with a case of the winter blues, but when does it become more serious…
Despite relatively good weather all year round, a growing number of Australians are reporting a downturn in their mood during the winter months. While we all get a case of the ‘winter blues’ now and again, at what point does it go from just feeling a bit flat to a case of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
A Fine Line
SAD, as it is commonly known, is a medical condition in which individuals experience prolonged periods of depression during the winter months each year. Greg Murray, professor of psychology at Swinburne University, says that the condition is different to the common downturn in mood people often experience as the weather gets colder.
“Most of us want to sleep more, put on a bit more weight, are attracted to fatty foods, so there are some biological mechanisms that predispose us to being a little less motivated in winter than at other times of the year,” he said. “If your mood is having a marked impact on your ability to function or impacts your thoughts and feelings about self, seek help.”
Professor Murray says that only 1 in 300 Australians will be diagnosed with SAD, requiring cognitive behavioural therapy, bright light treatment or medication to help them overcome the condition.
Waiting It Out
Some sceptics have argued that Seasonal Affective Disorder is not a legitimate disorder, and that people who experience a recurring downturn in their mood during winter should ‘wait it out’, but Professor Murray says that any form of depression requires intervention. “Depression, by definition, if it is at a diagnosable level, is where our system has adopted an unusual orientation and maybe we no longer have access to those constructive thoughts and behaviours that would normally see us through,” he said.
Professor Murray said that winter tends to make exercising regularly and socialising with friends more difficult, which could also contribute to periods of low mood, so prioritising these activities as part of your routine could go a long way to improving your mental health.
Winter can make everything just that little bit harder so remember to be kind to yourself – a warm bath, a strong cup of tea and a good book can make even the darkest evening a little brighter.
Do you find yourself feeling a little down during the winter months? Let us know in the comments.
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