When SADness is Really Depression

By Vanessa Kensing, LMSW

Last month on social media I was introduced to concept "Blue Monday." First mentioned in an article in 2005, Blue Monday, the third Monday in January, is meant to be the most depressing day of the year. While there is no science behind this concept, I began to think about it in relationship to something more scientifically based, Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD.

SAD is a type of depression which has seasonal expression, and for most, it occurs during the winter months. And while it could be temping to brush off symptoms as just the "winter blues," for those who are diagnosed with SAD, they are experiencing depression. 

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • feeling depressed
  • feeling worthless
  • low energy/fatigue
  • changes in sleep and appetite 
  • irritability
  • hypersensitivity
  • difficulty concentrating
  • no longer interested in activities that were previously pleasurable 
  • low motivation
  • social withdrawal
  • suicidal thoughts/attempts

When symptoms are distressing and/or present more days that not, it is time to seek out professional help. Much like other forms of depression, utilizing therapy and specifically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) can result in relief. Other forms of interventions including light therapy and anti-depressant (SSRIs) medications. Anti-depressants release the neurotransmitter serotonin known to regulate mood, which for some can be less active in winter months. Similarly, researchers believe that utilizing light for roughly 20-30 minutes after waking up causes a chemical change in the brain which lifts mood and eases other symptoms mentioned above. The FDA does not regulate light boxes, so using with caution and as instructed is imperative. If you have other health related issues or eye concerns, consult with your physician before using. 

If you believe you may be suffering from SAD please reach out for an assessment or to your therapist for an evaluation. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts due to SAD and/or depression in general please utilize emergency services. 

Vanessa Kensing is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy.  If you would like support with SAD or symptoms of depression, visit www.cobbpsychotherapy.com to learn more how therapy can help.