Published on January 09, 2018

shadow man

Is it the Winter Doldrums or Depression? 

The winter months — with shorter days, colder weather, barren landscapes and less natural sunlight — can affect your mood.

The “winter doldrums” is a temporary feeling of sadness and lethargy that some experience during this season. Yet, how would you know if you or a loved one is experiencing a momentary bout of the winter doldrums or a serious form of depression that needs treatment?

Depression is not a passing phase. It is a mood disorder that causes feelings of prolonged sadness, hopelessness and irritability. It can also lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

“People with depression are plagued by feelings of sadness, social withdrawal, and listlessness, making it difficult for them to function,” said Marissa Leslie, MD, medical director of mental health services at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville. “Everyday activities such as maintaining good hygiene, getting children ready for school in the morning or going to work can be a struggle for people who are depressed.”

Other mood disorders, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also occur in the fall and winter. SAD typically causes irritability, general hypersensitivity and loss of energy. It can also cause some people to eat and sleep excessively. Left untreated, all mood disorders can have a debilitating impact on work and family life.

To stay mentally well during the winter months and throughout the year, Dr. Leslie encourages individuals to establish healthy diet and exercise routines and make time to get 30 minutes or more of natural sunlight three times a week. Now that winter has arrived, pay close attention to any changes in mood or energy levels, and seek help if you have symptoms lasting two weeks or longer.


  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Get at least 30 minutes of sunlight three times a week
  • Build a support network of family and friends

Set Your Location

Setting your location helps us to show you nearby providers and locations based on your healthcare needs.