Seasonal affective disorder is more than just the winter blues

Seasonal affective disorder is a seasonal form of major depression.

Minnesotans are all too familiar with the gloominess that comes along with the long winters. The days are short and there's not much sunlight to soak up, which can leave people feeling sluggish.

For some people, the winter brings out seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, according to a press release from the Mayo Clinic Health System. 

SAD is more than just the winter blues, Dr. Gayle MacBride, a psychologist at the Allina Health Shakopee Clinic, said. It's a seasonal form of major depression and should be taken seriously, she said.

That particular Allina Health Clinic sees a steady rate of patients with SAD, MacBride said. Overtime, more people may report SAD because of increased awareness and years of trying to destigmatize mental health. 

“We typically do see increased cases as the days get short,” Martin Herrmann, medical director at Mayo Clinic Health System in New Prague and Waseca said. Some people will even start experiencing symptoms in the late fall, he said.

But how do you know if it really is SAD you’re experiencing?

“It has to do with the intensity of the feeling,” MacBride said. This means how long the feeling lasts, how disruptive it is in your life and whether it is recurring every season, she said.

Symptoms someone might experience if they have SAD are: low energy, feeling depressed most of the day, nearly everyday, sleeping too much, disinterest in things they once enjoyed, feeling guilt or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite, and thoughts of suicide, MacBride said.

“With SAD it’s a matter of experiencing several of these symptoms on a seasonal basis,” she said.

Lydia Christianson is a digital reporter for Southwest News Media. She graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota. When not reporting, she enjoys reading in coffee shops, listening to podcasts, and checking out new restaurants.