Seasonal Depression as the Colder Weather Approaches

 In Mental Health

Many people go through regular cycles of low moods with symptoms that resemble depression. For some, these low moods can be caused by changes in the season. While shifts in your mood aren’t always cause for alarm, if you experience significant changes that cause impairment in regular intervals throughout the year, you may have seasonal affective disorder.

There are treatment options for people who experience seasonal depression. Seeking professional help for more severe cases can help lessen your symptoms, and knowing what steps you can take before the weather transitions can help you prevent low moods.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is affected by the seasons and changes in weather. For most people with SAD, depression-like symptoms usually begin around fall and continue into winter. The colder seasons can trigger feelings of sadness due to decreased sunlight, gloomy skies, and harsh weather. Although less common, people can experience SAD in the late spring and early summer.

If you feel like you experience a shift in moods as the seasons change, take steps that help you prepare and cope with your mood. That yearly feeling of low energy or sadness when the winter comes around shouldn’t have to interfere with your life. Preparing for and knowing how to work through the symptoms associated with SAD can help you get through the change in seasons without trouble.

Symptoms 

SAD is simply one form of depression, not a separate disorder. Because it manifests through seasonal patterns, symptoms typically last anywhere from four to six months. Symptoms of SAD closely relate to those of depression, but only show up in these cyclic patterns and do not affect people with it all the time. These symptoms can include:

  • Sleep difficulties
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Fluctuations in appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Anhedonia
  • Low energy
  • Hypersomnia or insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation, irritability, and aggression

How Is SAD Treated?

There are a few different ways to treat the symptoms of SAD, and some may work better than others for different people. Talk to a professional to see what is best for you.

Psychotherapy. Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy is shown to produce the most long-lasting effects for treating SAD. This therapeutic approach can help you work through your negative feelings and find coping methods for your seasonal depression.

Light therapy. For people who experience SAD during the fall/winter seasons, light therapy can be beneficial. It has few side effects and the benefits of this treatment can be felt in just a few days to a few weeks. Research for light therapy is limited but it has been effective for people who use this approach.

While using light therapy, you are placed near a lightbox that exposes you to bright lights in the morning near the time you wake up. The lightbox imitates natural outdoor lighting, and this causes a change in your brain chemistry that increases your mood. You can purchase your own lightbox to use independently, but doctors recommend you talk to them to discuss if this is the best approach for you and what kind of lightbox to use.

Medication. Because SAD is a form of depression, it can sometimes be treated with medication. Psychiatrists will typically prescribe antidepressants and encourage you to attend psychotherapy to have the most effective results. It is best to take antidepressants as prescribed by your doctor at the start of the colder weather and continue into spring to catch the symptoms before they begin.

When taking medication, it can take up to six weeks to feel its effects. Psychiatric medications also have side effects that your doctor should alert you to before prescribing, and they will monitor you closely when starting a new medication.

Things You Can Try on Your Own

More severe cases require professional help, but there are things that you can do on your own to help with your seasonal depression.

  • Try to get natural sunlight. Even just a small amount of sunlight a day is more beneficial than having none at all.
  • Exercise regularly to get your body moving. Getting active outside exposes you to daylight and releases dopamine that gives that feel-good sensation.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet that nourishes your body. Taking care of yourself internally impacts your mental health as well.
  • Brighten up your living space. Allow natural light into your space. Find decor or lamps that give your space a lighter and brighter feel.
  • Talk to your friends and family about your mood changes due to seasonal shifts. They can help you prepare as the weather changes, and this alerts them to shifts in your behaviors.

If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, as the weather begins to transition from summer into fall, the loss of daylight and warmth from the sun can affect your mood. When you can predict the triggers of seasonal depression with something like the change of a season, you can prepare before you experience full symptoms that disrupt your normal routines. Mountain Peak Recovery offers therapeutic services and treatment that help you tackle mental health challenges along with addiction recovery. We understand how important it is to address concerns within a person’s entire well-being, which is why we encourage you to speak with us about your current circumstances. Our outpatient services are tailored to best address your specific needs while giving you the best professional care from our trained staff. You can reach us at (801) 824-8829 to learn more about how we can help you start your recovery process today. 

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