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Winter Blues Could be Something More

December 16th, 2011 Healthy Living

While it's totally normal to feel a little down at the onset of winter, some people experience a severe mood shift for long periods of time. The change of weather blues is also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and some rare cases even occur in the summer months.

According to PubMed Health and the Mayo Clinic, SAD is very similar to depression, but it occurs at the same time every year. Most people with SAD experience mood changes and less energy beginning in the fall and stretching into winter, yet some experience changes during spring and summer.

Fall and winter SAD is characterized by feelings of hopelessness, depression, anxiety, weight gain, lethargy and difficulty concentrating. Those with spring and summer SAD often experience anxiety, insomnia, irritability, agitation and weight loss.

The specific causes of SAD are unknown, but health experts believe that genetics, age and the body's natural chemical makeup all play a role in people who develop the condition. The changes in sunlight during the seasons may affect the body's biological clock, the brain's levels of serotonin (a chemical that affects mood) and levels of the hormone melatonin (a chemical that affects sleep patterns and mood).

SAD is diagnosed more often in women than men, and people who live farther from the equator are more prone to the condition because the levels of sunlight are drastically decreased in the winter and increased in the summer. If you've noticed a change in your mood or sleeping patterns around the changing of seasons and it lasts for longer than a few days, you may want to see your doctor about treatments to help you feel more like yourself.