Winter blues or seasonal depression? Know the difference
It can be difficult to tell if you’re struggling with seasonal depression (also known as seasonal affective disorder) or just going through the normal winter blues, especially now that a lot of people are going through the mental effects of the COVID-19 lockdown. Knowing the difference can help you know when to seek professional help. Here’s more.
What are winter blues?
The winter blues is described as a sudden feeling of sadness and loss of energy that can leave you demotivated during the cold winter months. This could be caused by a few things, such as the drop in temperature and lack of sunshine. It usually doesn’t last very long and goes away on its own.
What is seasonal depression?
Seasonal depression is similar to the winter blues but it’s more severe and can last longer than two weeks. According to psychologists, seasonal depression is triggered by shorter winter days. Symptoms can include difficulty sleeping, feeling more tired than usual and losing interest in things that you once enjoyed doing. Feeling demotivated and gaining or losing weight are common symptoms as well.
Seasonal depression is a mental disorder that needs to be diagnosed and treated by a mental health professional.
How do they differ?
The winter blues mostly go away after a really short period and don’t usually change your outlook on life. Seasonal depression, on the other hand, can be overwhelming and affect how you think about yourself, and the world around you. It can lead to feelings of hopelessness and even suicidal thoughts. If not diagnosed and treated (by a mental health professional), seasonal depression can get worse and last even longer.
How to deal with winter blues
Spending a lot of time indoors and laying on the couch or your bed all day can trigger the winter blues. Try exercising in the morning or in the afternoon to help lift your mood. You could also take frequent walks or chat to friends to help cheer you up.
How to deal with seasonal depression
If you suspect that you might be showing symptoms of seasonal depression, I suggest that you consult a health professional as soon as possible. If you’re diagnosed with seasonal depression, a mental health practitioner will determine which treatment (therapy, medicine, or both) is best for you.
Remember to talk to someone you trust about your feelings and experiences, especially if you’re struggling to cope with them. Talking about your feelings can help those around you understand what you’re going through and get you the support you need to get better.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember help is available. You can contact The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) for assistance or call the Suicide Helpline on 0800 567 567 if you’ve been experiencing suicidal thoughts. You don’t have to suffer in silence, Choma. Part of taking care of your mental health is knowing when to reach out for help.
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