There's lots to love about the colder months. Let me go ahead and list comfy sweaters, hot drinks, and beautiful snow days high on the list of magical things. But this time of year doesn't strike everyone's fancy. If you've been feeling a bit off, it could be a subtle sign you have seasonal affective disorder.
Otherwise known as SAD, this brand of depression rears its ugly head as fall fades into winter. Specifically, "SAD is a short-term depression that occurs during the colder months, coinciding with fewer hours of daylight," says Life-Well's Dr. Michele Barton in an email to Bustle. "In my experience, there is usually an underlying mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression which is compounded by the lack of light and an extreme dislike for winter."
If this describes your life, never fear. SAD can be treated, much like regular depression. Apart from prescribed medication, "working out is the best medicine here, [as it] boosts mood, improves sleep ... and could be a social activity," Barton adds. You can also boost your mood by eating vitamin-rich foods and trying to get as much sunlight as possible. (Yes, even though it's freezing outside.) Read on for some signs it may be time for you to do just that.
1. You Never Want To Get Out Of Bed
When it's dark and cold outside, it's totally normal to huddle under the covers until the last possible moment. But there's a difference between being comfy and really feeling like you can't get out of bed. "SAD affects your melatonin levels (a yawn-inducing hormone naturally produced in the body), which could lead to changes in sleep patterns," said deputy healthy living editor Lindsay Holmes on The Huffington Post. "If you find yourself oversleeping two or more hours each day compared to your normal sleep schedule, you may want to be monitored for the condition."
2. You Are Losing Interest In Your Hobbies
The longer it's cold and dark outside, the worse subtle symptoms of SAD can become, Barton tells me. So as the winter wears on, this could mean you'll experience a gradual tapering off of interest in your usual activities. Just like with depression, SAD can make you feel a "blah" about it all. And that's not OK.
3. You Must Have French Fries, Like, Right Now
SAD can really mess with your appetite, much in the way regular ol' depression can. If you're experiencing it, you might find yourself craving foods high in carbohydrates, according to the Mayo Clinic. Go ahead and have yourself some fries, but do take note if it's the only thing you care to eat.
4. You're Having Trouble Concentrating
Depression can affect how well your brain works, according to an an article on Health. "The condition has been shown to affect a range of mental processes, including concentration, speaking ability, and memory," the article notes. And studies show the same goes for SAD. So if you've been feeling a bit foggy as of late, this might explain why.
5. Your Body Just Doesn't Feel Right
If you've been feel relatively OK, but just a little off physically, it could be seasonal affective disorder at work. "Some people have symptoms such as headaches. Others have a heavy feeling in their arms and legs, as though their limbs are weighing them down," says health writer Beth W. Orenstein on Everyday Health. Heavy arms aren't necessarily something you'd notice, much less attribute to depression. But there you have it.
6. You Keep Getting In Little Arguments
SAD has a way of making life's little inconveniences feel utterly terrible. "Because of this, you may find yourself arguing more with your friends and family in a way that is seemingly unusual," Holmes said. Anger may not feel related to depression, but it most definitely is.
7. You Don't Want To Hang Out
If you normally are a bit of an introvert, then keep doing your thing. But if you notice a drop in your willingness to see friends, don't let it go unchecked. "Those with SAD typically prefer to be alone: They shun the company of friends and family and don't participate in activities they normally enjoy," Orenstein noted. Take it as a subtle sign, and be willing to seek treatment so you can feel better ASAP.
8. You Feel A Decided Lack Of Energy
SAD symptoms feel a bit different than run-of-the-mill caffeine withdrawal, according to Holmes. "One of the key signs is feeling increasingly lethargic; your limbs may even feel physically heavy," she says. If you literally feel at one with your couch, take it as a hint.
9. You Feel Super Rejected
Have you noticed your feelings are hurt over the smallest things? Do you feel absolutely soul-crushed when your friend cancels plans? If so, your hypersensitivity to rejection could be a sign of SAD, according to the Mayo Clinic.
10. You're Not As Interested In Getting It On
If you're feeling down in the dumps, then you likely won't be interested in anything romantic or sexy. And that's a symptom of depression, as well as SAD, according to Health. So take note if you're usually down to get it on, but suddenly have zero interest.
11. You Usually Feel Just Fine
Spring makes you feel wonderful. And fall is a great time to be alive. But once things turn cold and gray, you no longer feel like your usual self. "The key distinction between SAD and other forms of depression lies in the date on the calendar," Holmes said. "If you’re experiencing these symptoms just during certain times of the year, discuss coping options with your mental health professional."
And remember, there are things you can do to feel better — aside from waiting for spring.
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