A lack of light—not so much the weather—is also to blame, she says. When you consider that we’ll only have 8 hours and 25 minutes of daylight on the winter solstice, it makes sense that seasonal blues are a common complaint in Seattle.
“We’re at a Northern enough latitude that there is a huge difference in the length of day between summer and winter,” says Cashman. “People who are sensitive to that are going to really notice it.”
Is It Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is such a common phrase that anyone living in the Northwest who gets a little down in the dumps swears they have it. But SAD isn’t recognized in the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)—the handbook used by mental health providers to make diagnoses.
Instead, someone who displays symptoms of depression with a seasonal pattern would be diagnosed with depressive disorder with a seasonal specifier, says Daniel Evans, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who practices at the UW Neighborhood Northgate Clinic. Unless your symptoms are causing significant levels of distress or impairing your personal or work life, you probably don’t have SAD, he says.
“Most people who do experience those kinds of things—feeling more sluggish, more fatigued or less energetic—probably wouldn’t meet the criteria for a mental disorder,” he says. “They probably would be what we call ‘subclinical’ or ‘subthreshold.’ I think a lot of people probably fall into that subclinical sort of range.”
How to Keep the Rainy Day Blues at Bay
If you find that your work is suffering, you’re not engaging with your friends or family, or you’re always exhausted no matter what you do, talk with your doctor, says Cashman. These are symptoms of depression that should be addressed.
No matter your diagnosis, a little self-care can go a long way in the darker fall and winter months. Here are five things you can do to make it to spring with your mood and energy levels intact.
1. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule
One possible reason for the fatigue some people feel at this time of year is because of the effect that changes in daylight hours have to your biological clock. This internal clock responds to light and dark to tell you when you should be awake, and when you should be asleep.