When the days start getting darker earlier, our moods can, too.

Jennifer Jackson-Colburn, clinical director at the Elizabeth Layton Center, 2537 Eisenhower Road, Ottawa, said seasonal affective disorder and seasonal depression can start anytime as the days start getting shorter and the weather starts getting cooler.

“I think it probably has most to do with sunlight, lack of sunlight,” Jackson-Colburn said.

Seasonal affect disorder can happen at any time of the year, she said, but it occurs more often during the colder months.

“Basically, the symptoms are the same as any other depression,” Jackson-Colburn said. “It’s just that there’s a pattern that it occurs at a certain time of year for at least two years.”

Mayo Clinic suggests that seasonal affect disorder be taken seriously, and not just brushed off as the “winter blues.” Symptoms could include lethargy, increased appetite, a continuously sad mood and difficulty sleeping. Other depression symptoms may include a negative outlook, crying spells and “impaired memory and concentration,” according to Mayo Clinic.

During the winter, people’s bodies produce less serotonin and less melatonin, which is, again, most likely due to this lack of sunlight, Jackson-Colburn said. According to a new study, patients with depression in Denmark increased greatly following Daylight Saving Time. CNN reported 185,419 people with severe depression were studied from 1995 to 2012. Overall, an 11 percent increase of depression during Daylight Saving Time occurred.

Getting as much sunlight as possible can help combat depression during the winter months, Jackson-Colburn said.

“Going for a walk during the daytime hours, sitting by a window, whatever it is, even just getting 10 or 15 minutes of sunlight a day,” Jackson-Colburn said.

Being active and spending time with friends and family are also preventative measures that can be taken. A regular sleep schedule is also crucial.

The Elizabeth Layton Center provides psychiatric services for residents of Franklin and Miami counties, including therapy and medication prescriptions. To make an appointment, call (785) 242-3780.

Susan Welte is a Herald staff writer. Email her at swelte@ottawaherald.com