DUBUQUE, Iowa (KWWL) - As the weather outside becomes more frightful and the lack of sunlight seems less than delightful, mental health experts are explaining the signs of seasonal depression.
Seasonal affective disorder, also abbreviated as SAD, affects about 3 million Americans every year. While it can occur in the warmer months, most people experience depression symptoms in the beginning of fall and last until spring.
Experts say the changes in sunlight play a large role in seasonal depression. As lack of light can make serotonin levels, the hormone that makes you happy, decrease while also increase the level of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy.
Kelly Giegerich, Clinical Director of Hillcrest Family Serivces in Dubuque, said the changes in hormones can make people feel more lethargic.
"So you might see low energy, maybe sleeping more, maybe not wanting to get out of bed, lack of motivation, you know, not wanting to engage in activities," said Giegerich. "They can be very similar to signs of depression."
Because of weather patterns, our Chief Meteorologist, Mark Schnackenberg, said Iowans tend to see more cloudier and gloomy days than our counterparts down south.
"Because in the winter months, the northern part of the country has more active weather," said Schnackenberg. "And with more active weather comes more cloudier days and therefore it looks a little gloomier during the winter weather. And the days are a little shorter, so we have less time for some sunshine."
And while it is pretty common to occasionally feel groggy from the weather, Giegerich said if those become more regular, then it is worth seeking help.
"And even if you notice that seasonal depression is beginning to affect your ability to engage in work or other activities, then it might also be good to seek therapy or to talk to someone," said Giegerich.
Experts suggest spending more time outside can help offset some of the symptoms. Light boxes are also recommended to supplement for the lack of natural sunlight.