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#AskAPsych: I've Got the Winter Blues – is Seasonal Depression a Thing?

And how can we deal with it?

Want to know more about mental wellness? Meet clinical psychologist at Akeso Clinics, Nokulunga Shabalala, who is here to answer your mental health-related questions.

This week, we #AskAPsych if seasonal depression (aka when you get the winter blues) is a thing and what we can do about it.

#askapsych

Dr Nokulunga Shabalala

We all know how it goes: winter comes around and you can notice changes in your behaviour. At the end of autumn, the winter blues arrive – people tend to be less active, stay indoors (which means less social interaction) and also start craving comfort food (all the hot chocolate, all the doughnuts).

So where does this dip in mood come from?

That low-on-energy feeling comes from being cooped up indoors when it gets colder. However, if you’re vulnerable to psychiatric illnesses, such as depression or anxiety, you may find there’s a seasonal pattern to your depression. This means that you tend to experience depressive episodes during a particular season – this is more common during winter. This pattern is known as a seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Individuals will still experience what is typically known as a major depressive episode (MDE), but one that is characterised by seasonality – a variation in behaviour and mood during a specific season.

How can you tell if you’re experiencing SAD?

Typical symptoms associated with MDE are still there – such as low mood, and changes in sleep, appetite and weight. Social withdrawal and even thoughts of suicide may occur. Individuals affected by SAD can experience a MDE, which would then likely taper off as the season changes again. This is different from a major depressive disorder (MDD) because it is ongoing.

There are ways to get ready for potential winter blues. Preventing SAD starts with a solid routine. Make sure you exercise and get out there! See your friends and join social clubs – social isolation can negatively affect your mood. Lastly, stick to a healthy and balanced diet.

E-mail us your mental-health questions to cosmopolitan@assocmedia.co.za, or tweet us your query using #AskAPsych

Akeso Clinics is a group of private in-patient psychiatric clinics that prides itself on providing individual, integrated and family-oriented treatment for a range of psychiatric, psychological and addictive conditions. Akeso Clinics offer specialised in-patient treatment facilities.

For more info:

  • Email: info@akeso.co.za or contact 011 447 0268

Need help?

  • Dial 0861 4357 87 for emergency assistance

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