With so many types of depression, Seasonal depression occurs during the winter season. Scientifically referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), adults are most affected by it, and profound feelings of sadness and hopelessness occur during the colder half of the year. However, as the temperature gets warmer, symptoms of depression fade and the person feels better. Some people also get affected during the summers and feel better as winter approaches; however, the cases are relatively less. American Psychiatric Association says, that in the U.S 4-6% of adults suffer from this form of depression, while women endure the symptoms more often than men.
Causes of Seasonal Depression:
Chemical and hormonal imbalance in the brain due to decreased amount of sunlight changes the biochemistry of the brain, resulting in adults suffering from SAD, with first symptoms appearing between the ages 18 and 30. The percentage of SAD patients is more common in countries far from the equator due to a reduced amount of sunlight.
Patients usually suffer more seasonal depression than any other form of depression. Usually, the change in temperature brings a feeling of anxiety and depression and people suffering profound feelings for at least 2 years can be described as a patient of SAD.
Signs and Symptoms of Seasonal Depression:
- Ongoing Feeling of Sadness: Reduced sunlight exposure, induces feelings of sadness. If you have a family history with different types of depression, or already have depression and bipolar disorder, you have a greater possibility of being diagnosed with SAD.
- Increased Desire to Consume Carbs: Among the many consequences of depression, a decrease in serotonin (the happy hormone which regulates mood and hunger) causes patients to have an increased appetite. Carbohydrates help raise serotonin levels, hence patients increase carbohydrate consumption. However, one unfavorable consequence of this is weight gain and around 75% of people with SAD are overweight.
- Oversleeping: People with SAD experience at least 10 hours of sleep on average. According to a study, approximately 80% of seasonal depression patients oversleep.
- Exhaustion: People with SAD produce excess amounts of melatonin, which regulates sleep cycles. This along with decreased serotonin results in restlessness while sleeping. Therefore, patients diagnosed with SAD are exhausted despite long hours of sleep.
- Persistent Suicidal Thoughts: People suffering from any kind of depression often face suicidal thoughts. This is a matter of urgency and no other method besides professional help can assist in overcoming these thoughts. Reach out to someone you know can provide professional help or call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-272-TALK (8255) for immediate help.
Conventional Treatment for Seasonal Depression:
- Light Therapy: A light-emitting box is placed facing the patient while fluorescent light radiates on the person, generally more powerful than a normal light bulb. This therapy is usually done in the early hours of the day for at least 20 minutes, as this also balances sleep schedules.
- Talk Therapy: a kind of cognitive therapy, which involves discovering new hobbies and pastimes for an individual to help them get through the winters.
- Medication: the most widely used antidepressants for any form of depression, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and bupropion, are also prescribed to patients of SAD.
Summertime Depression results from overexposure of sunlight which is believed to cause decreased melatonin production. Equatorial countries have a higher percentage of people suffering from summertime depression. For the small percentage of people who suffer from summer Seasonal depression below are listed some signs and symptoms:
- Restless sleep hours
- Reduced hunger
For patients suffering from summertime seasonal depression, it is paramount to decrease light exposure and use air-conditioning.
Natural Remedies for Seasonal Depression:
Some natural remedies mentioned below for seasonal depression be it summer or winter-related depression, are proven effective. Lifestyle and behavioral changes help people overcome feelings of sadness and helplessness and can be everlasting than medications.
- Laughter Therapy: Laughter promotes proper functioning of blood vessels especially to the brain and releases dopamine that instantly makes a person feel good. Spending quality time with your closed ones or watching comedy can help induce laughter
- Nature Walk: For winter, related seasonal depression a 30-minute long walk out in the sun every day can boost happy hormones and give you your daily dose of sunshine. A walk in the park with a friend or going out in the neighborhood to do groceries can be an effective way to get exposure to sunlight.
- You Are What You Eat: Monitor your daily food intake, and make sure to fight cravings and rather include fresh fruits and vegetables as much as possible. This keeps your gut healthy which has the most neurotransmitters after your brain and is crucial in keeping your mind happy.
- Treat yourself: Self-care is important to keep you relaxed and healthy. A day at the spa, a good read or baking yourself some muffins can boost your mood and make you feel productive as well as relaxed. Know that you and your state of mind should be a top priority as it can reduce symptoms of depression
- Workout: make sure to add a workout to your routine to get those endorphins flowing. Regular exercise can ease away your depression especially working out in bright light, which can be equivalent to light therapy.