Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the "winter blues," is a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder that occurs and ends around the same time every year. Seasonal depression typically starts when the seasons change during fall and goes through winter. Seasonal depression can still occur in the summer or spring but is less likely.
Since seasonal depression has a predictable time of arrival, preventative measures can be taken to reduce symptoms. Prevention can include beginning light therapy in the early fall before the onset of symptoms, exercising more or visiting climates with more sunlight.
1. 5% of Americans suffer from SAD per year
2. 4/5 diagnosed with seasonal depression are women
3. Typical age to experience is 20-30 years old
4. Further from the equator, the more likely to experience symptoms of seasonal depression
Symptoms of seasonal depression are typically similar to those that occur with depression, making it sometimes difficult to diagnose SAD. Unlike other forms of depression, SAD increases hunger. Larger appetite, excessive sleepiness and weight gain are all common symptoms of seasonal depression. A diagnosis of SAD can be made after two consecutive occurrences of depression that occur and end at the same time every year, with the symptoms subsiding the rest of the year.
1. Mood changes: extremes of mood and sometimes mania during spring and summer
2. Lethargy: fatigue and inability to carry out daily activities
3. Overeating: craving for sugary or starchy foods causing weight gain
4. Anxiety: tension and inability to handle stress appropriately
5. Depression: misery, guilt, no self-esteem, despair, diminished interest in activities
6. Social problems: irritability and aims to avoid social contact
Phototherapy, or bright light therapy, has been proven to slow the brain’s release of melatonin. Although, there have been no research findings to definitely link this therapy with an antidepressant effect, light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85% of diagnosed cases. Antidepressant drugs may prove effective in reducing or eliminating symptoms, but many come with unwanted side effects. Discuss your symptoms with your family doctor and/or mental health professional to find the right path of treatment for you.