Seasonal depression is one of the many forms of depression. It occurs in winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a term that refers to depression in adults. It affects people who are older and suffer from deep sadness and despair. As the temperatures rise, depression symptoms diminish and people feel better. Some people are also affected by depression in the summer, but they feel better when winter arrives. However, these cases are much less common. According to the American Psychiatric Association, five percent of Americans suffer from this type of depression. Women are more likely to experience the symptoms than men. SAD can make it difficult to enjoy life and perform daily activities
Seasonal Depression Causes:
SAD is a chemical and hormonal imbalance that affects the brain’s biochemistry, Although the exact cause of SAD is not known, factors like disruptions in the circadian rhythm, changes to melatonin or serotonin levels and genetics as well as environmental factors may contribute to its development. SAD is not a common condition, However, those who experience less sunlight may be more susceptible to the disorder. It can be seen in adults between the ages of 18 and 30. Seasonal Affective Disorder is more common in countries farther from the Equator because there is less sunlight.
Seasonal depression is more common than other forms of depression. SAD is characterized by severe depression or anxiety that manifests as a change in temperature. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider if you experience symptoms of SAD, as they can help diagnose and recommend appropriate treatment options. People who experience intense feelings for more than 2 years are considered to be suffering from SAD.
Seasonal Depression Signs and Symptoms:
- Mood-related symptoms: An ongoing feeling of sadness: SAD is more likely to be diagnosed if you have a history of depression or bipolar disorder.
- Persistent low mood: Feeling sad, down, or depressed most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, specifically during the fall and winter months.
- Loss of interest or pleasure: Losing interest in activities or hobbies that were once enjoyable, experiencing a decrease in motivation, or feeling a lack of enthusiasm for things that used to bring joy.
- Changes in appetite or weight: Experiencing changes in appetite, such as craving and eating more carbohydrates or sugary foods, which can lead to weight gain during the fall and winter months. Patients feel more inclined to eat carbs. Patients increase their carbohydrate intake because carbohydrates help to raise serotonin levels. This can lead to weight gain, and approximately 75% of those with SAD are overweight.
- Changes in sleep patterns: Having disrupted sleep patterns, such as oversleeping, experiencing difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or feeling excessively sleepy during the day. SAD sufferers are able to sleep for at least 10 hours on average. A study found that approximately 80% of seasonal depression sufferers oversleep.
- Fatigue and low energy: Feeling constantly fatigued or having low energy levels, even after getting enough sleep, and struggling with daily tasks and activities. SAD can cause exhaustion. People with SAD have excess melatonin which regulates their sleep cycles. Combining this with decreased levels of serotonin causes insomnia. SAD patients are tired even though they sleep a lot.
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors: Having recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or engaging in suicidal behaviors, which should be taken seriously and addressed immediately by a healthcare professional. Suicidal thoughts are common in people suffering from depression. These thoughts should be dealt with immediately and professional help is required. For immediate assistance, reach out to someone you trust and call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA): 1-800-273-8255. Crisis Text Line (USA): Text “HOME” to 741741.
Seasonal Depression Treatment:
Light Therapy: Light therapy is one of the best natural remedies for SAD. You are required to be exposed to bright artificial light for a set amount of time each morning. Artificial light mimics sunlight and can help regulate the circadian rhythms of your body, which are responsible to control your sleep and wake cycles. SAD symptoms can be reduced by light therapy in as high as 70% of cases.
Talk Therapy: This is a type of cognitive therapy that involves finding new hobbies or pastimes to help someone get through winter.
Patients with SAD may also be prescribed medication, including Selective Serotonin Reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and bupropion.
Natural Remedies to Seasonal Depression:
These natural remedies for seasonal depression have been proven to be effective, whether they are summer- or winter-related. People can overcome sadness and helplessness by making lifestyle and behavioral changes. These are more permanent than medication.
Laughter stimulates blood vessels, especially the brain, and releases dopamine which instantly makes you feel happy. Laughter can be induced by spending quality time with loved ones and watching comedy.
SAD symptoms can also be treated naturally by exercising. Exercise has been proven to increase endorphins (the body’s natural feel good chemicals). Stress and anxiety can be reduced through exercise, which can help with SAD. Even mild exercise like walking or yoga can help reduce symptoms of depression. You should aim to exercise for 30 minutes every day, on all days of the week
A 30-minute walk in the sun each day for winter depression and seasonal depression can increase happiness hormones. You can get sunlight exposure by walking in the park with friends or shopping in the neighborhood.
Eat a Balance Diet:
Keep track of your food intake and resist the urge to eat junk food. Instead, eat fresh fruits and veggies as often as possible. Your gut is the best place to keep your brain happy and healthy. It produces the highest levels of neurotransmitters than your brain.
Take care of yourself:
Self-care is essential to maintain your health and happiness. You can feel more productive and happy by spending time at the spa, reading or baking muffins. It can help reduce depression symptoms.
Practice Relaxation Techniques:
SAD symptoms can be caused by anxiety and stress. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation can reduce stress and promote calm and relaxation. These techniques can improve mood and decrease depression symptoms by being incorporated into your daily life
Get enough sleep:
SAD sufferers need to get enough sleep. Sleep is essential for their mental and physical health. Sleep deprivation can make depression worse and make it more difficult to function throughout the day. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night and keep a consistent sleeping schedule. Avoid using electronic devices prior to bed as blue light can disrupt sleep