Harvard Men's Health Watch

Seasonal blues: Should you worry?

Seasonal mood shifts may indicate untreated depression.

In temperate climes, it's not uncommon to feel a downturn in mood as we say goodbye to summer, enjoy the falling leaves, and then reluctantly say hello to winter. In some cases of clinical depression, a man's symptoms may follow a clear seasonal pattern. This is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and it's a less common subtype of major depression. It can develop in either the fall or the spring.

If your mood droops a bit as the winter holiday season approaches, do you have SAD? Probably not. Research has found that humans, like other members of the animal kingdom, can experience hormonal and other physiological variations in response to changes in the intensity and even the color of light. It usually passes.

But for some men, a seasonal descent into melancholy may be an opportunity to confront an unrecognized depressive condition. "Depression can get worse in the winter and does not necessarily fit the criteria for SAD," says Dr. Ann Epstein, a psychiatrist at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance. "Although your winter blues may not fit the criteria for SAD, if you are concerned about it, it's worth evaluating."

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