Many things can affect our happiness and mental health. Unfortunately, this time of year is difficult for many, as the days are cold and shorter, outside time is limited, and people tend to feel more lethargic. To add insult to injury, the pandemic has ripped us from our normal lives and forced us to isolate, stripping away simple joys like spending time at a coffee shop or going to a movie with friends. Because of these factors, feelings of depression and anxiety may be more prominent than normal and it’s natural to somewhat down during this time. However, there is a difference between the winter blues and clinical depression. The question then becomes, how do you delineate simply feeling sad from something more serious like seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or major depressive disorder? Well, there is more to depression than just feeling down. Here are some key things to look out for.

Length of time

Occasionally noticing a dip in your mood is completely normal—maybe even expected—but when you are noticing that you feel significantly more depressed nearly every day, you may want to seek help from a professional to explore treatment options like talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or ketamine for depression. The winter blues generally clear up in a shorter amount of time and involve milder symptoms. Therefore, if your feelings extend beyond external, temporary factors you could be suffering from either SAD or major depressive disorder.

Losing pleasure in things that used to bring you joy

Feeling less social or more sluggish than usual can be a sign of the winter blues, but if you have completely lost interest in activities you once enjoyed, this could be a sign of something bigger. Being able to pull yourself out of a slump through hobbies or simple pleasures is vital to your mental health, but many people who suffer from SAD are unable to overcome these unwanted feelings despite engaging in activities they enjoy.

Feeling hopeless or worthless

These feelings are an indication of something bigger than traditional winter blues. Interestingly, hope is one of the strongest emotions that we experience as humans, and some argue that it can even trump fear. While feelings of hopelessness may be exacerbated due to the pandemic, there could be an underlying cause to your symptoms if you cannot shake the feeling. Worthlessness is also a signal that you could be experiencing something more. If it feels like there is no end in sight and you feel especially hopeless or worthless, treatment may help.

Thoughts of death or suicide

Thoughts of death or suicide are not to be taken lightly and show that you’re experiencing something much more serious than normal winter blues. These thoughts won’t just go away in a short period of time or without the help of a mental health professional. Ketamine for depression is shown to greatly reduce these thoughts in people with suicidal ideations and treatment-resistant depression. If you or someone you know are experiencing thoughts of death or suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention line immediately.

Getting Help

Several coping mechanisms can help with the winter blues during this difficult time. Making time to FaceTime with friends, taking a morning walk, and opening your blinds to let sunlight in can combat symptoms. However, if you or someone you love is suffering from prolonged sadness, loss of interest, suicidal ideations, or feelings of hopelessness, ketamine for depression may be the best option. For a free consultation, contact Alleviant Health Centers today to see if you could be a candidate for ketamine infusion therapy.

About the Author

Kim Sandberg is the owner and founder of Alleviant Health Centers of San Diego and a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. She has two advanced degrees: a Masters of Science in Nursing as a Nurse Anesthetist and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. She has worked in a variety of settings, though the biggest impact on Kim and her work came from her 28 years of service in the Navy Reserve. By opening Alleviant Health Centers, Kim hopes to provide much-needed care for patients who struggle with mental health and chronic pain—especially to the population of veterans and servicemen who desperately need help. Moreover, she is excited to contribute to the holistic health movement by bringing integrative holistic psychiatry and other innovative treatments to the community of San Diego.

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