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When Anxiety Is Worse During the Winter

March 7, 2017
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After my short hiatus from the real world, I have returned to teach you a little secret about anxiety and the seasonal called Seasonal Affective Disorder. The season can play a huge effect on your mood, anxiety, depression and overall mental wellness. So, if you find yourself struggling during the winter months, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder is also known as SAD, and I prefer the acronym for the disorder because it basically sums it up. SAD is a type of depression that occurs during a specific season each year. For most people, this usually occurs during the last two months of winter, February and March. Ironically, I always increase my anxiety medication during these months and only noticed the pattern recently. Since we had an early start to the cold season this year, I found myself increasing my medications in December. It then dawned on my, “…Wow. I Have SAD.” So, if you find yourself really hating life and slumming around during the dark and dreary season of winter, you may very well suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Who Gets SAD?

Absolutely anyone can get SAD. However, it tends to be more common in:

  • Women
  • People who live in Northern countries or states
  • People who have a close relative who suffers from SAD
  • People who already suffer from depression or anxiety
  • People aged 15-55 (SAD decreases as you age)

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

There isn’t a set list of causes for SAD. However, it’s believed that the lack of sunlight during the winter months contribute to the cause. The weather often plays a huge effect on your mood and when the days outside are dark, dreary, and absolutely miserable – it’s easy for your mental wellness to follow en suite.

SAD causes can also be from a lack of serotonin, which is also a huge contributor to anxiety and depression disorders in general. Serotonin is a brain chemical that affects the mood, so this makes sense.

Your sleep patterns are also disrupted during the winter months since you wake up when it’s still pitch dark outside.

The foods you eat can also contribute to SAD. During the winter months, many fruits and vegetables aren’t in season so you pay a hefty price for not-very-good produce. As such, many people in Canada skip over our favourites during this season. What do we do instead? Pack in the carbs, and as you’ve learned throughout this anxiety blog, carbs contribute to anxiety.

During the winter months, many people channel their inner animal and hibernate. This can also be a factor, as you aren’t enjoying the season, you aren’t getting fresh air, you’re starting to get bored, inactive, and the list goes on.

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What are the Symptoms of SAD?

Basically, if you feel like absolute death during the winter season every year you pretty much know it’s SAD. However, here’s a more detailed list of Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms:

  • Increased sadness, moodiness, anxiety, and grumpiness
  • Loss of interest in things you typically like
  • Eating more carbs
  • Weight gain
  • More sleep without feeling satisfied
  • Trouble focusing

 

Diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder

So, how do you get diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder? For me it was simple. My doctors had a clear record of my doctor visits that occur during the winter season and they quickly saw the pattern.  Typically, you need to have a pattern of depression during the winter months for at least 2 years.  Having proof of symptoms also help and/or a bloodline that shows SAD to be in your genetics.

All you have to do is visit your doctor. They may take some blood samples to rule out other conditions but generally, Seasonal Affective Disorder is really easy to recognize.

 

How does the winter affect you?

Here are my favourite treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

 

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