What is Seasonal Depression and How Can it be Treated

Whether it is called the “Winter Blues” or “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD),” seasonal depression is a real form of depression, which usually introduces itself around or after the holiday season. Understanding the signs at play can help in preventing depression around the holidays. Here’s a closer look at seasonal depression and what it can mean in a sufferer’s life.

What is SAD?

The blues that come around the end of the year might seem to be a holiday depression. However, the timing of seasonal affective disorder is due more to the changing of the seasons than the holiday season. It is far more common during winter, when days are gloomy and there may be significantly less sunlight. Seasonal depression affects 1 to 2 percent of the population, mostly children and women. Their personalities and life outlook are much different than how they feel and behave during the bright days of summer.

What Does SAD do?

Seasonal depression can wreak havoc on the mind and body, with emotional swings that are markedly different than other times of the year. Sufferers may feel stressed or uninterested in things they normally love. Among the aspects of one’s life that can be affected by SAD are:

  • Appetite: Gaining or dropping weight
  • Social relationships: No longer spending time with loved ones or participating in enjoyable activities
  • Emotions: Mood swings, feelings of hopelessness or anxiety
  • Irritability: Higher levels of anger or frustration than normal
  • Sleep: Changes in sleep-wake patterns
  • Mental acuity: Difficulty concentrating

Noticing these signs and talking about them with the individual who you think is suffering from SAD can really make a difference. If you are not sure how to approach someone who is dealing with depression, here are 10 things you can say to them that will be helpful.

How Does One Treat SAD?

Fortunately, seasonal depression can be treated. Many sufferers supplement their time spent in weak natural light with special lamps that simulate daylight. The extra-bright light can suppress the brain’s production of melatonin, which can help sufferers feel more alert instead of drowsy. These phototherapy lights do not require a doctor’s prescription, and they can be fairly inexpensive. Many people say they feel better after just a few hours in the light, while others take days or weeks to see an improvement in their mood. A full 85 percent of phototherapy users are successfully treated with this simple method.

Consult a Therapist

No matter what time of year depression hits, it is vital that people who are feeling sad or having severe negative thoughts consult with a therapist. In some cases, people with seasonal affective disorder don’t respond to phototherapy and instead choose cognitive behavioral therapy. Start by contacting Mazzitti and Sullivan to schedule an appointment.