SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- (11/20/2017) As the leaves begin to fall from the trees leaving them bare, it's an obvious sign that winter is on its way. For some, however, the season change brings far more than just colder temperatures leaving them with, what many call, the winter blues.
It's called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. More than 3 million cases are reported each year in the U.S.
"It's a disorder that happens when there's a lack of sunshine, and it affects your outlook on everything. Chemicals in your brain don't get released when the sunlight is reduced," said Tom Emery, the Injury Prevention Outreach Educator with Cox Health.
Shorter winter days mean less hours of daylight which makes the colder months the prime time for seasonal depression to creep in.
While reports indicate that women are four times as likely to develop SAD, it's something that anyone can fall victim to.
"Anybody can be at risk of developing it, and we all suffer from it to some degree even if we don't get the disorder diagnosis," said Emery.
Symptoms like a drop in energy, tendency to oversleep or difficulty concentrating are some of the many signs that come along with the disorder.
But to fight away those winter blues, Emery says the solution could be as simple as braving the cold to give your body what it's been missing.
"Although the suns much farther south in the winter times and its weaker, it still releases those chemicals in our body that help us feel better: serotonin, dopamine. So, it does help to get outside," said Emery.
If you think you could be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, the best thing you can do is get outside and enjoy some fresh and air and sunshine. If you are having more serious symptoms, such as suicidal thoughts, you should contact your health professional as soon as possible.