The fall and winter months can be some of the most stressful times of the year for many. Added holiday pressures can trigger heightened difficulties for those with depression, anxiety, and other disorders. For some, these months bring about seasonal depression that may not occur at other times of the year.
What is seasonal depression?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern) is a type of depression often seen as the seasons change, characterized by recurrent episodes of depression in the fall and winter months. Each year, roughly 5% of the US population experiences seasonal depression, with four out of five being women.
While symptoms of typical depression include weight loss and lack of sleep, symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include:
- Oversleeping (Hypersomnia)
- Daytime Fatigue
- Weight Gain
- Craving Carbohydrates
- Mood changes
Other symptoms may include lethargy, suicidal thoughts, and decreased socialization.
The exact cause of seasonal depression is not known, but some experts attribute it to an individual’s reduced levels of serotonin (neurotransmitters) caused by the reduction of sunlight in the fall and winter months. When these neurotransmitters don’t function normally, it can result in depression.
They have also attributed the sleep-related hormone, melatonin, to seasonal depression. This hormone can affect sleep patterns and mood and reaches elevated levels in the dark. As days are shorter and nights are longer, production of melatonin increases, affecting one’s internal clocks and causing depression.
There are several factors that increase someone’s risk of suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
- Being female. As we mentioned, four out of five women suffer from Seasonal Effective Disorder.
- Living far from the equator. Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs more frequently in individuals who live far north or south of the equator. 1% of individuals in Florida and 9% of individuals in Alaska and New England suffer.
- A family history of depression contributes to the development of seasonal affective disorder.
- Having depression or Bipolar Disorder. An individual who suffers from depression or Bipolar Disorder may have worsening symptoms.
- Younger Age. Younger adults are at higher risk than older adults; it has also been diagnosed in children and teens.
How can seasonal depression be treated?
Some people will see symptoms in August, but they usually become present between October-November, and tend subside between March-April. Since it has a somewhat predicable patter on occurrence, there are measures that can be taken ahead of time to help manage symptoms.
- Increasing physical activity which can help release endorphins
- Meditate and use other stress management techniques
- Increasing the amount of light when inside
- Spend more time outside
- Stay hydrate to nourish the brain
- Spend time with others to lessen the feelings of loneliness
Unlike other depressive orders, light therapy can be used as one method for treatment and has shown to be up to 85% effective in helping the reduce the symptoms as it suppresses the brain’s secretion of melatonin. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a subset of major depression and if symptoms continue, you may need to seek further medical help.
Does Lifeskills South Florida treat depression?
At Lifeskills South Florida, we treat depressive disorders, including Seasonal Affective Disorder. We know that sometimes long-term therapy and support are needed to ensure recovery success. Our professional treatment team uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as part of the process for treating depression. This solution-focused, evidence-based treatment approach emphasizes changing behavior through applying specific skills. CBT focuses on how cognition, emotions, and behavior relate to one another, and changing the behavioral reaction based on how the individual evaluates a situation. As the client and therapist work together, they can identify and solve the issues that have prevented effective functioning.
We believe with the proper treatment and support, individuals can recover from depression. Our strength-based program and collaborative culture provides a treatment environment that focuses on the presenting disorder but also targets the issues contributing to them. If you or your loved one is looking for trusted, ethical treatment for depression or other mental health disorders, Lifeskills South Florida can help. Call us today at 866-321-9430 or complete our contact form for more information.