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Change of Season Can Bring Increase in Depression

Nebraska Medical Center psychologist offers tips to fight “winter blues”

It’s known by several names: the winter blues, seasonal depression, seasonal affective disorder; but the symptoms are the same. Up to five percent of Americans report poor energy, fatigue, decreased attention and concentration, irritability and general sadness during the winter months. All can be attributed to seasonal affective disorder.

“People do not get enough exposure to the sun,” said Kelly Fairbanks, PsyD, clinical psychologist at The Nebraska Medical Center. “Also, people tend to have a lower activity level during the winter. That decreased energy can deplete your mind and body of its ability to feel good and carry on the activities you normally would.”

Dr. Fairbanks said exercise can be a very effective way to fight the winter blues.

“If there’s anything that can beat the blues, it is exercise,” she said. “And it’s not just physical activity. It’s social activity. Those things promote energy. It’s all about keeping energy up during those winter months.”

People who have experienced anxiety or depression before are more likely to feel the effects of the winter blues. If someone is concerned that a friend or family member is being affected by seasonal affective disorder, Dr. Fairbanks suggests recommending that they see their doctor. Treatments are available.

“Some people use light therapy, some use vitamin supplements. Others need some counseling to help them get through.”

A well-balanced diet is helpful as well for maintaining a good outlook through the winter, said Dr. Fairbanks.

More information about seasonal depression can be found on The Nebraska Medical Center’s YouTube channel.