When the winter season arrives, for many it is a wonderful time filled with vacations, gifts and hours spent with loved ones – well, when we haven’t been in a global pandemic. For others, however, the winter months can be an extremely difficult time. One of these factors that contributes to this feeling is commonly referred to as “seasonal depression,” also known by its official medical name, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). So what is it and how can you help someone who is suffering from it?
What is seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression?
UK mental health charity To listen defines SAD as a “type of depression that you experience during particular seasons or times of the year.” Depression is a bad mood that lasts a long time and affects your day to day life. Such episodes most often occur during the months of the year when the days become noticeably shorter and the weather used at make it colder (thank you, climate change). Although some may experience it as a temporary event, studies have shown that as much as one in three people frequently fight this depression all fall and winter.
the NHS Taking note of the symptoms that usually occur due to such a condition, some signs include: feeling generally irritable, low self-esteem, stress and anxiety, incessant bad mood, crying, reduced sex drive , feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, a tendency to become less sociable, and difficulty showing interest in daily activities such as hygiene. Sure, depression is not limited to the above symptoms and varies in intensity from person to person, with thoughts of suicide developing.
For seasonal depression in particular, for example, other specific symptoms May occur. These can be: changes in appetite, weight gain, severe fatigue or lack of energy and problems concentrating to name a few. It can really affect your day to day life and is more serious than just the “winter blues”. So, now that we know a little better how to spot it, let’s take a look at the underlying causes of why it happens in winter.
What causes seasonal depression?
While the exact The cause of SAD has not yet been verified and substantiated by a scientific study, possibly due to its complex and multifaceted nature– there are suspected theories which are believed to contribute to the disorder. As it occurs most often during the winter months, light, or the lack thereof, is considered a major player.
Health Line said: “One theory is that reduced exposure to the sun affects the natural body clock which regulates hormones, sleep and mood. Another theory is that light-dependent chemicals in the brain are more affected in people with SAD. It should be noted that these are only some ideas behind why light alone might be an important factor – the theories are endless.
the American Psychiatric Association, for example, suggested that people living farther from the equator are at a higher risk of developing the disorder and have linked SAD to a biochemical imbalance caused by a shift in a person’s body clock, causing misalignment with their typical schedule. If you care about the content, fear not, there are steps you can take to help you manage SAD.
How do you deal with seasonal depression?
It goes without saying that any symptoms you may be experiencing should be reported to a healthcare practitioner. As SAD is part of the depression spectrum, it is essential to have it examined and diagnosed correctly by the knowledgeable mental health expert. Doctor Deborah Pierce, MD, from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, New York said Daily health, “There are a number of screening questions that can help determine if a person is depressed… Your doctor will be able to determine if you have SAD as opposed to another form of depression. “
After diagnosis, there may be opportunities to continue treatment through your healthcare professional. the National Institute for Health and Excellence in Care (NICE) suggested that the condition is adequately treated by the same methods used for alternative forms of depression. This includes, but is not limited to, medications like antidepressants, traditional forms of therapy as well as CBT, counseling and even light. therapy.
Light therapy is an emerging method under investigation to determine its effectiveness in the treatment of SAD. Right now, its capacity as a stand-alone treatment is incredibly inconsistent. Overall, the NHS pointed out that although there is mixed evidence, some studies have shown that it can be helpful, especially when used in the morning. Light therapy typically involves a lamp or softbox that a patient sits with for 30 minutes to an hour each morning.
Although different in design, these light therapy tools generally produce very bright light which is supposed to simulate sunlight which is limited for many during the winter. “Light is thought to improve SAD by encouraging your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you drowsy) and increase the production of serotonin (a hormone that affects your mood),” the NHS wrote. The treatment is however usually not available via the NHS it’s best to talk to your doctor if you want to try it.
How to deal with seasonal depression at home
If you find that there is a lack of accessibility to therapies or you are having trouble getting a diagnosis, there are some things you can do on your own to help relieve your symptoms. While having a softbox or dawn simulator (an alarm clock that wakes you up with “sunlight”) seems handy, there is another very easy way to get light. Go outside.
According to a study Quoted by The conversation, going for an hour-long daily walk outside showed a substantial improvement in all symptoms as opposed to those in the study which only had artificial light. The advice on the web is to get out as much as possible, especially at times of the day when the sun is brightest. It usually falls around noon. If you can’t go out or work remotely, keep your curtains open and choose a workstation that’s closest to natural light if possible. Try to exercise or do some sort of movement activity regularly.
Trying to do the above with others might be a two bird, one stone solution. Try to find ways to stay in touch with people around you and avoid excessive social isolation — hard to do in a pandemic, I know. Despite the need to stay indoors due to COVID-19, it’s important to find other ways to socialize. “When the winter weather makes it really cold to be outside or dangerous to drive, we can FaceTime with friends and extended family or set up Zoom calls with them. ” noted psychologist Kim burgess, PhD.
These are just a few easy ways to manage symptoms, but the list is endless. Other things to watch out for or implement are: healing nutritional deficiencies like vitamin D, journaling, traveling, and creating a simple program or routine. And remember that your mental and emotional health is just as important as your physical health. So take care of it too.