Why does autumn and winter trigger mental health issues?
While the exact cause of SAD is unknown, several factors contribute to its development. Some of these include:
Loss of sunlight
During fall, the sun goes down earlier, and the days become shorter. This decreased exposure to daylight not only throws off our circadian rhythms but also leads to lower levels of serotonin, or the ‘happy hormone’ in our brains. Low serotonin levels can cause anxiety, mood swings, and even depression. That’s why fall can be such a challenging season for individuals who are already dealing with mental health problems.
Back to reality
Fall means back to school for students and back to work for employees, which can cause stress and anxiety for some individuals. After a long summer of relaxation and fun, getting back into the grind can feel overwhelming. Coupled with the knowledge that the holiday season and the end of the year are coming up, this can make individuals dealing with mental health problems push themselves beyond their capabilities, leading to burnout.
Fall is the season of anniversaries. It’s the time when death anniversaries, hospital admissions, and other significant dates for individuals dealing with mental health problems occur. These anniversary reactions can trigger intense emotions, grief, and stress, making it challenging for individuals to cope with their mental health issues.
Before the holiday season starts, individuals tend to overspend their money. From buying Halloween costumes and decorations to purchasing Thanksgiving and Christmas presents, the fall season comes with a lot of financial stress. For individuals dealing with mental health problems, financial stress can create anxiety and lead to overwhelming feelings of hopelessness.
Fall’s colder weather can make it difficult to go outside and socialize. It’s not uncommon for individuals dealing with mental health issues to feel isolated during the fall since they might have trouble meeting up with friends and family due to various restrictions. Isolation can exacerbate feelings of sadness and depression, making the season even more challenging for individuals with mental health problems.