‘Tis the Season… For Depression
We’ve all heard of Seasonal Depression. The clinical term is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. When the weather starts to get colder, often our moods follow. Usually SAD starts in the fall and eases up in the spring. People with SAD usually have depression the same times of year, every year.
There are several factors that can cause seasonal depression. One is the lack of sunlight. The sun helps our bodies feel happy. When our bodies are deprived of sunlight, depression can set in for some. The lack of sunlight can even reduce the Serotonin levels, a chemical in the brain. Lower Serotonin levels are linked to depression. Seasonal changes can also affect our Melatonin levels in the body. Melatonin helps people sleep and regulate their moods. When Melatonin levels are low, depression can set in. People who live further away from the equator are more subject to SAD because cold seasons are longer and colder.
There are quite a few environmental factors that play a strong role in SAD and its severity. Financial burdens that hit people near the holidays can increase the level of depression in many. Less social activity can cause many to become more depressed. Inability to do the activities many find joy in, such as gardening, spending time on the water, and other outdoor activities. People are more likely to have colds and flu in winter months, which can exacerbate any depressed feelings. Our environments play a huge role in symptoms of depression and alleviating those symptoms.
Luckily, there are several effective treatments for SAD. Some people with SAD benefit from medications, such as antidepressants. Others undergo light therapy to help the body replenish the sunlight the body is clearly missing. Many people benefit from psychotherapy to develop coping skills and learn how to manage their symptoms in ways that specifically work for them.
If you or someone you know struggles with depression in the winter months, please seek medical help. SAD is a very real, chemical illness that can significantly affect the quality of a person’s life. Please get help if you feel SAD!