Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons. It typically starts as we move into winter and eases as we get to spring, however, some people experience it at different times of the year. With the first day of spring being March 20th, we thought we’d shine a light on this phenomenon, what it is, its possible causes, and what you can do if you’re struggling.
What Is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal depression is very similar to typical depression, other than it being dependent on the time of year. Symptoms often start out mild and become progressively more severe as we get deeper into winter. These symptoms can include, but are not limited to:
- Feeling listless, sad or down most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy and feeling sluggish
- Having problems with sleeping too much
- Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain
- Poor appetite and weight loss
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having thoughts of not wanting to live
Why Do People Get Seasonal Depression?
The specific causes are unknown, but there are some possibilities and risk factors.
Causes – Reduced sunlight in winter can affect your circadian rhythm. This impact on your body clock can result in feeling tired and low. As well as this, the reduced amount of sunlight can interfere with the production of serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’. Melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’ can also be affected, which may further disrupt sleep and mood.
Risk Factors – Possible contributing risk factors may include your family history. If you have relatives who suffer from this condition, you may be more likely to as well. Already having major depression or bipolar disorder also puts you at higher risk and these can worsen with SAD. Living far from the equator seems to have an impact due to these areas having fewer sunlight hours.
What To Do If You’re Struggling
So, what should you do if you think that you are suffering from seasonal depression?
Ways To Help Yourself
Light therapy – Artificial light can be used to regulate your circadian rhythm.
Avoid alcohol – Picking up a drink may seem like a good way to relax at the end of the day, but alcohol often negatively affects your mental health.
Get active – It can be difficult to do anything active when you are suffering from depression but managing to get up and about can have a hugely positive effect.
Socialise – Again, this can be tricky but it will be beneficial!
Let the sun in – Get as much daylight as you can. Make sure the curtains are open as soon as you wake up.
Ways to Get Help
See your doctor – Your GP can help to find your diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan, such as undergoing therapy or taking antidepressants.
Antidepressants – You should not be nervous about taking medication, but it is important to understand the possible impacts and side effects.
Contact us – Let Dr Jan help!
Get In Touch
The first step towards happier and healthier winters is booking a discovery call. This is a free, no-obligation conversation with Dr Jan in which you can get to know each other and he can start devising a plan to help you.