Find your nearest COVID testing location here. For up-to-date information and availability of COVID vaccines, click here.
Back to Living Better
Winter blues

The winter blues: Could it be seasonal affective disorder?

Are winter’s cold, dark days getting you down? While it can be normal to occasionally feel the blues during colder months, severe or long-lasting symptoms may be related to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a mood disorder characterized by depressive symptoms during a certain time of the year. It mostly affects people during winter months and is more likely to occur in women or those with a family history of the disorder.

Not to be confused with clinical depression, seasonal affective disorder is just that – seasonal – and symptoms are less severe than depression. Always see your doctor for any type of diagnosis.

Charlotte Grayson Mathis, M.D., a primary care physician at Piedmont Physicians Group, says she sees patients with seasonal depression symptoms when the days are shorter and the weather is colder.

“People aren’t socializing as much, so we see more depressive symptoms,” she explains.

Seasonal affective disorder symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Increased sleep and daytime drowsiness

  • Irritability

  • Fatigue, or low energy level

  • Decreased sex drive

  • Diminished concentration

  • Difficulty thinking clearly

  • Increased appetite, especially for sweets and carbohydrates causing weight gain

“We see it in climates where there is less sunlight,” says Dr. Grayson. “People are sad and/or anxious during the winter months, they may lose interest in activities they normally enjoy and they may be sleeping more.”

How to relieve symptoms of seasonal affective disorder

“Most patients with depression tend to isolate themselves, so it’s important to have a friend or family member to talk to who knows what is going on,” she says. “Get out of the house and do things you like, but you don’t have to force yourself to be in a large crowd – that can be more than some people can handle.”

What can you do to relieve mild symptoms?

  1. Exercise. Yoga, Pilates, a brisk walk, a day class – any physical activity you enjoy. 

  2. Eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables, and less carbs and sweets.

  3. Spend time outdoors. Take a walk during your lunch break, go for a hike or visit a park on the weekend.

  4. Get a massage.

  5. Be social. Avoid isolating yourself, as this can make symptoms worse.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment to see your physician if:

  • Your symptoms are interfering with your ability to function and/or your ability to interact with family, friends and co-workers.

  • You notice a change in your sleeping patterns, whether you are sleep too little or too much.

  • You are thinking about hurting yourself or others.

  • Your symptoms have lasted for more than a month. 

“If your symptoms are more serious, a doctor can prescribe antidepressants, light therapy or counseling,” says Dr. Grayson.

Dr. Grayson practices at Piedmont Physicians Yorktown, located at 101 Yorktown Drive, Suite 100, Fayetteville, GA 30214. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Grayson or one of our other primary care providers. Save time, book online.

Related Stories

Schedule your appointment online

Piedmont App

Download the Piedmont Now app

  • Directions
  • Indoor Hospital Navigation
  • Find & Save Physicians
  • Online Scheduling

Download the app today!

Get the Piedmont Now on Google Play Get the Piedmont Now on iTunes App Store