Are You Feeling Sad?

Jen Noonan MA, LPC, CACIII

With the extreme temperatures the U.S. has recently experienced, many are questioning if they have SAD, otherwise known as “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I often observed my mood take a nose dive during late fall and throughout winter. When I became a mental health professional, I understood why this might have happened. However, by this time I was living and thriving in Denver, Colorado, a city that receives 300 days of sunshine a year (although Nick will debate me on this). Maybe I subconsciously moved to Denver.

 SAD occurs mainly due to the reduced level of sunlight in the fall and winter. Your biological clock (which lets you know when you should be awake and asleep) gets disrupted, and your Serotonin and Melatonin levels decrease, leading to depression. Apparently (but not surprisingly), females experience SAD more often than males. So do those who live farther from the Equator, who have a family history of SAD, and who have been diagnosed with clinical depression and Bipolar Disorder.

 SAD is considered a subtype of depression or Bipolar disorder. However, if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, it could POSSIBLY be SAD:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating

We must be careful not to confuse these symptoms with underlying issues. It is normal to have a few days where you feel blue, but if this continues for days on end, it’s time to see a healthcare provider or professional therapist. If your sleep patterns have changed, if you feel suicidal, if you have turned to drugs or alcohol to cope, or if you feel completely hopeless, it is extremely important to seek help.

So what are some common solutions? I’d say come join me in Denver, but if that’s not possible, here are a few suggestions:

Exercise and get outside as much as possible – These will reduce overall stress and anxiety, which often leads to depression.


Make your home and or work environment sunnier – Sit closer to windows and open up blinds 

Alternative medicine – Supplements, yoga, acupuncture, meditation, guided imagery, massage.

Adequate sleep – Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, making sure to get enough hours of sleep (at least 6 – 8).

Treatments – Light therapy, medications, or see a therapist. 


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