Although we are now (thankfully) entering the warmer months in MN, I know that a lot of us, including myself, have experienced seasonal depression this year. Typically it comes with the winter months, but even if it may only be temporary it can a have a very negative affect on people’s mood, health, energy level, performance in work and school, and many other aspects of their lives. It’s important to address your seasonal depression in order to improve your overall health.
Seasonal depression is also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is defined by the Mayo clinic as“...a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.” Most people who experience SAD have symptoms that begin the fall and continue into the winter months. However, there are some that also experience SAD in the spring and even early summer.
Why do most people experience it during the cooler months?
Reasearchers do not know exactly why SAD occurs but they speculate that is caused by a number of imbalances in the body which I will list below.
- One possible reason is due to a change in your circadian rhythm aka your biological clock. When we have less sunlight our internal clock may have trouble regulating sleep which in turn means that you may have issues regulating your mood as well.
- Serotonin levels in the body could also play a role because reduced sunlight can cause them to drop. Serotonin is a chemical in our brain that regulates mood so lower levels could cause depression.
- Melatonin levels are another factor that could be causing SAD. Melatonin is a chemical that affects our sleep pattern and when we receive less sunlight it may cause an overproduction of melatonin that leads to fatigue
Treatments for seasonal depression
Light therapy or phototherapy is one of the recommended treatments for SAD. It involves sitting in front of a special light box for the first hour when you wake up in order to mimic natural light. Not much research has been done on this therapy, but according to the Mayo clinic it seems to have a positive effect on many patients.
Of course with depression it may also require medication such as anti-depressants or psychotherapy in order to work through these stressful symptoms. Sometimes doctors may recommended patients to start on either one of these treatments when they start to experience symptoms each year
Of course it’s also recommended that you try to spend time outdoors whenever possible since sunlight helps to alleviate symptoms. I personally was prescribed a vitamin D supplement for my symptoms this winter and this another common treatment.
It’s important to take care of yourself if you experience SAD as it can have lasting effects and seek help from a professional if necessary!