Seasonal Affective Disorder or Just Winter Blahs?

A friend of mine called from Miami.
A Buffalo transplant, she
was homesick whichDSC00197

put her in a cranky mood. (Yes, you can be homesick for Buffalo.) She asked what the weather was like "up there". Honestly, I said, I couldn't remember when I saw the sun last. Then she had the nerve to complain about how unseasonably hot it was in Florida. What is it about human beings that we enjoy complaining about the weather so much? And when does a wintertime bad mood get upgraded to Seasonal Depression?

The symptoms of SAD are easily recognizable: sleeping too much, little energy, craving sweets and starchy foods, weight gain, feeling irritable and sad.

Many us who live where the winters come early and stay late feel this way at some point while the sun is scarce. We cope by self-medicating with chocolate. However, if the symptoms are severe, last more then a couple of weeks, and you can't get to Miami, contact me and we'll find you the help you need.


  • What about not enough sleep? Can that be a sign of SAD?

  • No, but a person can be depressed in the winter and not have SAD. Changes in your usual sleep pattern (see “Eight signs your blues might be depression” August 20, 2008 post) like not being able to fall asleep, waking in the middle of the night, waking up way too early could be a sign of depression or that you’re the parent of a child under the age of six.

  • Marta

    The cold of winter doesn’t bother me as much as the shorter days. It seems I don’t get much done and my productivity is important to me. I try to develop inside projects for the winter but this year money is pretty tight. Any ideas?

  • Dear Marta,
    Your definition of ‘productivity’ may need an adjustment for the winter months. The days before television when people used to do hand work or read aloud to one another around a cheery fire comes to mind. There’s a lot we can do as long as we are clever and take it down a gear.
    If you’re a reader this may the time to check out those books you can’t get to during the summer because you’re too busy. Over Thanksgiving I read ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’(fabulous!) I’ve been using the library a LOT lately. My son, a film buff, has created a list of classic movies he thinks we should watch as a family, like The Godfather (my kids are teens), which I’ve never seen. Our public library has DVDs too!
    Are you crafty or enjoy handy work? With the economy being what it is I heard a lot of people are turning to these skills to create little holiday gifts or altering out of fashion clothes to be more stylish.
    A lot of gardeners force bulbs or do other indoor gardening (not my thing but the Gardening while Intoxicated blog has good ideas for the winter gardener
    Let’s see, what else? Learn a new language or dust off one you know (again the library is a wonderful resource); discover music you may have forgotten or never heard before.
    Start a notebook to record all your ideas for projects once the sun stays out longer!

  • I use the quiet of winter to explore and reconsider most everything I can about the world around me. It seems a natural opportunity – a gift provided by the universe once a year. I do so in the very deepest part of winter. It keeps me out of trouble at the least. My Miami, I guess.


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