Could your depression be seasonal? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that generally occurs during the winter months. Although the winter is coming to a close, many individuals can still suffer from SAD well into the spring season. Experts think SAD may be caused by a lack of sunlight, which can upset your biological clock that controls your sleep-wake pattern and other circadian rhythms. This may lead to chemical imbalances in the brain, specifically problems with serotonin, which contributes to your mood.
SAD symptoms are similar to the main form of depression that include feelings of sadness, loss of interest in your favorite activities, abnormal eating behaviors (binge eating), weight gain, sleeping more but still feeling tired and having trouble concentrating. Symptoms can occur intermittently throughout the winter season and people begin to feel better as the spring starts to progress. However, if SAD symptoms are weighing you down, therapist Stuart MacFarlane has some tips that can help you spring into a better mood!
The winter season is known to have short days of sunlight and that can affect your circadian rhythm as mentioned above. Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, may help change the brain chemicals that are linked with your mood. A special light therapy box exposes you to light that mimics natural outdoor light and all you have to do is sit a few feet from the box and turn it on. Some light boxes can be timed to wake you up slowly with increasing light. Some research indicates that it can help alleviate some symptoms of SAD within a few days to two weeks.
Anti-depressants may be a viable treatment method if an individual has severe SAD symptoms. You’ll have to speak with your doctor about your condition to go over the possible medications. Symptom improvements will generally take several weeks to notice and you may have to try different anti-depressants until you find the one that best works for you.
Another beneficial treatment option is psychotherapy as it can help you identify and change the negative thoughts/behaviors that may be making you feel depressed. A psychotherapist can teach you healthy ways to cope with SAD and will provide you with a foundation to openly communicate about your feelings.
Exercising and other types of physical activity can boost your mood and alleviate some symptoms of SAD. As you exercise, your body will release endorphins that interact with the receptors in your brain and trigger a positive feeling in the body.
Even though the winter season is almost over, it can still take some time for SAD symptoms to diminish in the spring, so try the above suggestions so you can boost your mood and get back on track.