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Winter Blues vs. Seasonal Affective Disorder

Updated: May 9


Winter is a difficult time for many people. Depending on your geographic location, there could be shorter days, with weather that keeps you inside. This leads to isolation and boredom with the repetitive nature of daily life.

The winter blues are less severe than Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder with seasonal pattern. Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder with seasonal pattern (formerly Seasonal Affective Disorder) requires that a major depressive episode lasting at least 2 weeks, occurs in each of the last 2 years. In most cases, the major depressive episodes begin in the fall or winter and alleviate in the spring. Some symptoms include depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feeling sad/empty/hopeless, weight fluctuations, nightly sleep disturbances, feeling fatigued, decreased focus and concentration and recurrent thoughts of death. These symptoms have to cause impairment in important areas of functioning such as school or work.

Winter blues is a non-disorder. Symptoms are mild and include sadness, hopelessness, loss of energy, and too much sleep. These can be due to lack of Vitamin D and shorter days in the winter months and social isolation from adverse weather, flu season, ect. While you can experience similar symptoms, the winter blues do not generate impairment in areas of functioning. For example, someone with the winter blues may feel sad, uninterested and fatigued, but are still attending work or school.

If you're struggling to feel your best during the winter season, you don't have to bear it alone. Finding support from family & friends, communities and professionals can reconnect you and break up the monotony of your days. There are also behavioral changes you can make, such as utilizing light therapy, to improve your mood.

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