This time of year, as the temperature drops and the days get shorter, many of us start to feel a little down.

Some people call it the winter doldrums; others refer to it as the wintertime blues. Whatever you name it, this season’s colder weather, grayer skies, and longer nights can have an impact on our mental health. And for some people, the sense of depression and despair brought on by this time of year is more than just a mood swing.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of clinical depression in which there is a serious mood change during the winter months, when we are deprived of natural sunlight. It often comes on in late fall, around November, and peaks around January or February. In its milder forms, SAD can cause feelings of listlessness, low energy, excessive sleep, and problems concentrating. At its most severe, the disorder can spur hopelessness, guilt, and thoughts of self-harm or even suicide.

“Around this time of year, we have less sunlight, and the days are shorter,” says Emily Welsh, PMHNP-BC, a behavioral health nurse practitioner at MelroseWakefield Hospital. “And there are more cases coming out of the pandemic, when people have been more isolated. They can experience mood changes, lower energy levels, a loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite and sleep habits. And women tend to have more episodes—we don’t really know why.”


Read the full story on the WCVB TV Tufts Medicine Health Hub:

Shining a light on seasonal affective disorder


Tufts Medicine Formerly Wellforce