Daylight savings time has ended, the weather is changing, the days are getting shorter, and we’re all getting a lot less sunlight. Some people notice that they experience more depressive feelings in the winter and clinically there may be a very good reason. Seasonal depression, diagnostically known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is something that affects millions of people each year. SAD is characterized by depression and depressive symptoms appearing and lasting specifically during a particular season of the year. Most people experience depression symptoms beginning in the late fall and lasting through the winter, experiencing relief at the beginning of spring time. A much smaller portion of the population experience depression specificity during the summer season and feel relief during the fall and winter months.
Causes of SAD are less understood compared to other disorders and are still being researched. What we do know and understand is that changes in the amount of sunlight we absorb significantly affects our internal clock, our vitamin D levels, and how much melatonin (sleep chemicals) and serotonin (depression fighting mood chemicals) our brain produces.
Similar to Major Depressive Disorder, people experiencing SAD may notice
- Fatigue during the day
- Difficulty sleeping at night
- Increased isolation & social withdrawal
- Changes in appetite
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased irritability
- Increased anxiety
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Loss of interest in the activities you used to enjoy
- Thoughts of death or suicide
If you have had a of history of experiencing depression during a specific time of year, a mental health professional will be able to assess you for Seasonal Affective Disorder and discuss various treatment options such as therapy, medication, and light therapy.
A therapist can help you minimize the severity of your SAD symptoms by helping you create an individualized treatment plan to tackle your seasonal depression. We can assist you with tracking and identifying when your SAD symptoms begin so you can be proactive with treatment to minimize symptoms, help you create a concrete and supportive plan of how to manage symptoms when they are at their peak, and help support and guide you into a healthier transition when the seasons change. A therapist will be able to offer informed and professional support to help you navigate ways to take care of your mind and body, and safely consider options to enhance the benefits of therapy such as medication to help with mood, or light therapy to help to supplement the lack of sun light.
We’re here to support you through this journey and can help you find the treatment that is right for you and your lifestyle.
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