There is so much to love about the different seasons in Oregon. Summers at George Rogers Park in Lake Oswego. Visiting the many farms throughout Tualatin during the fall. Or watching the cherry trees blossom during the spring throughout the Portland Metro.
And then comes the winter. Many people throughout Oregon enjoy the rain. There is something refreshing about it.
But as the December holidays pass and the winter months drag on, attitudes begin to teeter towards sadness. The sun struggles to break through the thick blanket of grey clouds. It is a struggle to wake up in the morning. Motivation is harder to come by. Melancholy sets in.
People begin to suffer through what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is hard to charge through, no matter how much you may want to.
Here are some common symptoms or things to be aware of with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Symptom of SAD #1: It is Seasonal:
Living further away from the Equator impacts Seasonal Affective Disorder. Emotions change as the seasons move from sunny clear skies into those that are cloudier and gloomier.
People living in the cities surrounding Portland, Oregon tend to find the months of January and February as being most difficult.
Symptom of SAD #2 — Change in Mood:
People experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder show a shift in mood in the fall and winter months. A person will typically begin to show a surge of sadness or depression. Emotions of melancholy will become more prevalent. A person’s attitude may be far different during the fall or winter months than in spring or summer.
Symptom of SAD #3 — Loss of Interest in Fun Activities:
Activities or events that a person once loved are no longer of interest. A person loses some ability to find joy in interacting with others. It takes more emotional and physical energy to attend events that would otherwise be exciting.
And forget about the events or activities that need a higher level of effort. There is no joy found there for the person experiencing SAD.
Symptom of SAD #4 — Changes in Appetite:
A person experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder will usually begin to consume more food. There is a greater craving for carbohydrates like breads and pastas. And oftentimes those cravings will include sweets like cookies and brownies.
These eating changes may be linked to SAD. Carbohydrates create more of the “feel-good” chemicals in your body, serotonin.
Symptom of SAD #4 — Loss of Energy:
There may be an increase in sleepiness or a loss of energy during the fall and winter months. Motivation for work, school, and relationships may lessen. Sleep patterns are likely to shift into a desire or need to sleep longer than usual or more than is necessary.
Symptom of SAD #5 — Feelings of Worthlessness or Guilt:
A person dealing with depression may already show a low level of self-esteem or value. The emotions of worthlessness tied to SAD tend to increase during the fall and winter seasons. Those same emotions dissipate as the sun begins to come out during the spring and summer.
Symptom of SAD #6 — Difficulty Focusing:
Does it take far more energy to complete a simple task? Or are you less productive at work or school?
Because concentration requires energy, a person experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder will have a much more difficult time focusing or accomplishing tasks. There is an inability to sit for long periods of time without a need to rest or to be distracted.
Symptom of SAD #7 — Thoughts of Death or Suicide:
There tends to be an increase in thoughts of death or suicide that coincides with any form of depression. It is no different with Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is natural that as the sky turns grayer and gloomier, thoughts of death would increase.
If your depression is severe or if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
While Seasonal Affective Disorder may be a common form of depression, it is not something that should be taken lightly. Living in the Portland Metro area, you’ve likely grown accustomed to feeling depressed during this time. And you might be used to just living with it and trying to muscle through on your own, but you don’t have to.
Take the steps of self-care. Especially during these months of gloominess.
Jason Wilkinson is a mental health therapist and owner of Wellspace Counseling. He helps college students and professionals discover greater self-confidence and freedom from anxiety. Wellspace Counseling serves the Tualatin, Lake Oswego, and Portland Metro Area in Oregon.