Rainy season has arrived in Portland.
The days are dark and cloudy, and the nights grow longer and longer. As daylight makes itself scarce and the weather is gloomy, many will begin to experience “the winter blues,” or the more serious “seasonal affective disorder.” But what are these conditions, and what can be done about them?
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder is the common name for major depressive episodes with a seasonal pattern*. This is classified as a mental health diagnosis along with other types of depression, and often requires treatment to resolve. Those affected might find themselves sleeping longer (about 2.5 hours more than summer, on average), having a harder time waking up, having decreased energy and a hard time concentrating. Many will self-isolate, withdrawing from family and friends. They feel depressed most days, and family and work relationships suffer. About 6% of the population experiences seasonal affective disorder. And while the return of Spring may provide relief, seasonal affective disorder is likely to return year after year without treatment.
The “Winter Blues”
The “winter blues,” while not meeting criteria for any diagnosis, is still very common (about 14% of the population) and echos many symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Folks affected may also sleep longer (about 1.7 hours more than summer), and see similar decreases in energy, productivity, and lower mood.
What can be done about seasonal depression or the winter blues? Treatment for seasonal depression is similar to any other type of depression: working with a counselor, and if needed, a medication prescriber, is key to lifting depression. In counseling, I work with clients to explore the roots of depression, increase understanding of the patterns or cycles of depression, learn tools to cope and help clients re-connect with that which brings them joy and motivation in life.
Coping with the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. To find a therapist in your area visit psychologytoday.com. If you are in the Portland area, my books are open. Contact me to request a free 30 minute consultation.
*Diagnoses like major depressive disorder, with seasonal pattern, can only be diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional. If you suspect you may be suffering from this or any other mental health condition, please seek evaluation and treatment. This blog post is not meant as a replacement for professional mental health advice.