Do You Have Depression or the Winter Blues?

Here’s how to tell when your seasonal blues may be something more.

Everyone feels down once in a while. But how do you know if it’s just a case of the blues or something more? The information below may help you decide if you should see a doctor.

What Are the Winter Blues?

During fall and winter, many people find themselves feeling blue. This is usually a temporary condition that is mild and clears up on its own. Your mood may be linked to something specific, such as a change in the weather or amount of daylight, holiday stress or the absence of a loved one. One of the most telling signs that you just have a bout of the blues is that your mood improves in 2 weeks or less.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

If you always find yourself feeling sad year after year when the days get shorter, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is a more serious condition and is related to a lack of sunlight. SAD is a medical disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness or fatigue and problems with sleep, appetite or concentration. Treatments, such as light therapy, may reduce or alleviate your symptoms.

What is Depression?

Depression is more than just feeling down – and it is not usually confined to a single season or event. It is a true medical condition that can be treated. Depression can change the way you think and may also:

  • Take the joy out of life.
  • Make everyday activities difficult.
  • Make you feel bored, helpless or worthless.
  • Cause headaches, stomach problems or joint pain.
  • Cause you to lose your appetite or eat too much.
  • Make it difficult to manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.
  • Result in social isolation.
  • Make you think about hurting yourself.

If you feel sad or lose interest in things you used to find pleasurable and your feelings last for more than 2 weeks, make an appointment with your doctor. Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression can be treated with counseling, medication and other therapies.

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Date Last Reviewed: October 19, 2018

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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