Back to Top Skip to main content

Shining light on those wintertime blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects millions of Americans every year and is believed to be more common in parts of the country where the sunshine is less prevalent, such as here. SAD symptoms can include a down mood, loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyable, change in appetite, sleep patterns, fatigue and loss of energy. (Navy photo by Douglas Stutz) Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects millions of Americans every year and is believed to be more common in parts of the country where the sunshine is less prevalent, such as here. SAD symptoms can include a down mood, loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyable, change in appetite, sleep patterns, fatigue and loss of energy. (Navy photo by Douglas Stutz)

Recommended Content:

Mental Wellness | Sleep

The winter weather forecast will be snow and sleet for some, yet sorrow and sadness for others.

Got them wintertime blues? You’re not alone.

“Seasonal Affective Disorder – SAD – is a mood disorder triggered by a change in seasonal weather patterns such as shorter days, gray skies, and rain,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan R. Hydes, Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) Board Certified Clinical Psychologist.

December 22 was the Winter Solstice, and the shortest day for 2019. Also the longest night. SAD is associated with the Winter Solstice, because the condition does tend to manifest itself during late fall and early winter when less natural sunlight is available.

“SAD affects millions of Americans every year and is believed to be more common in parts of the country where the sunshine is less prevalent, such as here. SAD symptoms can include a down mood, loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyable, change in appetite and in sleep patterns and fatigue and loss of energy. In some cases, thoughts of suicide,” explained Hydes, who is also embedded as the assigned psychologist of Marine Corps Security Force Battalion and Submarine Group Nine Sailors working out of Branch Health Clinic Bangor.

While there are no compiled statistics on actually how many service members deal with SAD, Hydes notes that mental health complaints in the military are similar to mental health numbers seen in the civilian sector.

“About seven percent of people experience a depressive episode every year, with women 1.5 to three times more likely to experience a depressive episode. Applying that number to our region, there are several hundred service members assigned in the area who will likely experience a depressive episode in 2020,” stated Hydes.

There is a difference to someone feeling glum due to their team losing a big game and being affected by SAD.

“Big difference. Having ups and downs in mood is perfectly normal, especially after experiencing a loss like Navy losing to Army. This is very different from what we see in SAD.

Situational stressors can result in down moods, but these moods are typically shorter and much less severe than what we see in SAD,” said Hydes.

“A dip in mood is common with rainy days and winter months and is not usually a concern,” continued Hydes. “However, when changes in thought and/or behavior occurs, they should seek help. We should look for signs of SAD in our friends and shipmates. Awareness is very important.”

Some of the warning signs include low energy, fatigue, tiredness, low mood, decrease in activity, and difficulty concentrating. Other possible indicators of the onset of the winter blues are feeling apathy, being sad nearly every day, pessimistic attitude, excessive sleep and/or poor sleep, irritability, changes in appetite, and change in weight.

There are risk factors to consider.

“Risk factors for depression include a history of mental health issues; a family history of depression; a sudden loss such as a divorce or breakup; drug and alcohol abuse; increased stress; and social isolation,” Hydes said.

According to Hydes, SAD or not, symptoms of depression should be addressed when they result in behavior or a change in thinking, specifically if centered on thoughts of self-harm.

“When it comes to behavior, we look for any changes. This can include things such as a normally social person choosing to isolate him/herself, or a person who usually sleeps seven or eight hours a night is now staying in bed 12 hours a day, or a person with normal eating habits is now not eating. We also assess changes in thought patterns. This can include a person with a healthy self-esteem who now suddenly believes he/she is worthless or unloved. The appearance of suicidal thought(s) is of course the most serious symptom and is a clear indicator that immediate intervention is needed,” stressed Hydes.

Beneficiaries can contact their Family Medicine provider, Mental Health, Military Onesource, and Pastoral Care departments for consult assistance.

Alcohol is also a contributing factor in how some attempt to handle being SAD…or not.

“Alcohol affects people’s depression in different ways, but its’ impact is never good. The best case scenario is that alcohol masks some underlying problem and prevents a person from getting necessary help. Worst case scenario is that the alcohol significantly increases the chance that a person will engage in self-injurious or suicidal behavior,” Hydes said.

All is not doom and gloom, says Hydes. There are ample opportunities available for everyone to shine their own light and beat the wintertime blues.

“Stay physically active and exercise. Get outside even if the weather is crummy. Enjoy the Pacific Northwest. You can’t wait for a sunny day,” recommends Hydes.

For Navy Lt. Justin Hoblet, NHB Physical Therapist, SAD became a reality after spending the last 16 years living in either Florida, Texas or California before being assigned to his new command.

“I was definitely impacted by the inability to get out in nature as much as I was able in the more sunshine friendly climates. When I moved here the lack of sunshine was a shock to my system,” Hoblet related.

Both Hoblet and Hydes suggest that another option for someone impacted by lack of natural sunlight and feeling SAD is to invest in light therapy with a light box.

“A light box is an over-the-counter product that generates a soft light. You sit in front of the light for about 30 minutes a day and this can help alleviate the symptoms of SAD,” Hydes said.

“I did some searching and discovered SAD and that light therapy – with a brightness level of 10,000 lux – has been shown to be an effective non pharmacological means to combat SAD. Light therapy has been well studied and has shown to be effective when used early in the morning as it helps maintain a healthy circadian rhythm which is often delayed in those with SAD. If one isn't sleeping well then your body isn't healing itself and one tends to be in a less than optimal mood,” added Hoblet.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Symptoms can include:

  • A persistent low mood.
  • A loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities.
  • Irritability.
  • Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness.
  • Feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day.
  • Sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning.

Shining Light on those Wintertime Blues:

  • Keep active.
  • Get outside.
  • Keep warm.
  • Eat healthily.
  • See the light.
  • Take up a new hobby.
  • See friends and family.
  • Talk it through.

Disclaimer: Re-published content may be edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

You also may be interested in...

Mental Health: What you can expect at a therapy appointment

Article
10/28/2020
Image of Richardson talking

You don’t have to wait until you’re in crisis to see a mental health professional.

Recommended Content:

Mental Wellness | Total Force Fitness

‘I am Navy Medicine’ – helping another in need - Hospitalman Grace Pridmore of NMRTC Bremerton

Article
10/7/2020
Corpsman conviction of care, compassion and competence…Hospitalman Grace Pridmore, from Kellyville, Okla., assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton Detachment Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS), was acknowledged for her selfless effort by Capt. Shannon J. Johnson, NMRTC Bremerton commanding officer, for identifying another Sailor at risk and taking quick action to help get the Sailor to the appropriate level of care, very possibly saving a life (official Navy photo by Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton public affairs officer).

It takes more than just awareness to respond to someone showing signs of distress.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness

Zama Middle High School counselor can help with COVID-19 stress, more

Article
8/13/2020
Woman in red dress sitting on chair and posing for the camera

Miller wants students and parents to know she is available for a wide variety of issues, including those related to COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness

Air Force mental health team provides for deployed troops

Article
8/4/2020
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nathan Davis, conducts a weekly Disaster Mental Health battlefield circulation walk around Quarantine Town.

The Disaster Mental Health team helps combat the stressors of the novel coronavirus and improves the overall well-being of service members of Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness | Coronavirus

MHS addresses sleep in the military through sleep studies

Article
7/20/2020
Man sleeping in bed with alarm clock on side table

Find out the many ways researchers are finding for a good night’s sleep.

Recommended Content:

Sleep

Camp Pendleton group therapy provides a cornerstone for mental wellness

Article
7/17/2020
Image of Ian Beard

Mental health is an essential component of overall wellness.

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness | Coronavirus

DVBIC collaboration leads to improved sleep recommendations

Article
7/13/2020
Airman sleeping on floor of plane

The expanded recommendations identify additional sleep disturbances through a streamlined process of diagnosis and management.

Recommended Content:

Sleep | Traumatic Brain Injury

'Home sweet home' leaves a sour taste for some quarantine-weary

Article
5/28/2020
Family playing board game

Mental health professionals offer tips on managing during uncertain times

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness

Military chaplains emphasize spiritual health during COVID-19 pandemic

Article
5/19/2020
Soldier in front of military sculpture

In a time of great fear, spiritual health remains an important domain of Total Force Fitness.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness | Total Force Fitness

Coping with the stress of social distancing

Article
3/31/2020
Image of person alone in room

How to navigate the COVID-19 outbreak

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness

Addressing emotional responses to threat of Coronavirus

Article
3/20/2020
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kathleen A. Myhre, 446th Airman and Family Readiness Center noncommissioned officer in charge, meditates outside the 446th Airlift Wing Headquarters building on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Feb. 12, 2020. Myhre traveled to India in 2016 to study to become an internationally-certified yoga instructor. She now shares her holistic training with Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 446th AW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mary A. Andom)

Even if you’re feeling healthy, medical professionals recommend staying home and limiting social contact as much as possible

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Mental Wellness | Physical Activity | Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

Air Force studies fatigue, sleep to enhance readiness

Article
12/31/2019
An Air Force Airman sleeps inside a C-17 Globemaster III during a flight over an undisclosed location in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration)

Good sleep habits are closely related to overall health and performance

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Sleep

Are you sad or are you SAD?

Article
11/20/2019
Some individuals suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also referred to as Depressive Disorder. As the name suggests, it’s a form of depression that occurs during the seasonal change to winter. (U.S. Air Force photo by Trevor Cokley)

In the U.S., SAD is estimated to affect 10 million people

Recommended Content:

Mental Wellness

Suicide Prevention spotlight: Military behavioral health technicians

Article
10/1/2019
Senior Airman Brandon Haag goes through new patient paperwork, Feb. 9, 2015, at the Mental Health clinic on Scott Air Force Base, Ill. A typical protocol when a new patient comes in is getting to know the background history of the patient to help them and the provider they will see know what will help in a crisis or difficulty. Haag is a 375th Medical Group mental health technician. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Erica Crossen)

Suicide prevention is aided by behavioral health technicians in many settings

Recommended Content:

Mental Wellness | Suicide Prevention | September Toolkit

New clinical recommendations on cognitive rehabilitation for TBI released

Article
6/24/2019
Dr. Gregory Johnson (right), Tripler Concussion Clinic medical director, has Army Spc. Andrew Karamatic, Department of Medicine combat medic, follow his finger with his eyes during a neurologic exam at Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

Cognitive rehabilitation focuses on improving thinking and communication skills

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Traumatic Brain Injury | Mental Wellness
<< < 1 2 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 2

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.