Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs at specific times of the year, usually during fall and winter. While it shares similar symptoms with other types of depression, seasonal depression is unique in that it is triggered by changes in the seasons.
People with seasonal depression may experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and irritability during the winter months. They may also have difficulty sleeping and feel tired all the time, even after a full night’s rest. These symptoms can affect their daily activities and relationships, causing them to withdraw from social interactions. Knowing what the symptoms of seasonal depression are can make it easier to know when to seek help.
Northeast Health Services offers depression treatment in Massachusetts that can help you or a loved one build healthy coping skills, manage symptoms, and improve overall well-being. Call 508.794.8711 today to get started.
An Overview of Seasonal Depression
Seasonal depression is a form of depression that usually begins in the late fall or early winter and goes away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. The exact cause of SAD is unknown. However, it is commonly linked to the decrease in sunlight during the fall and winter months. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and result in feelings of depression. Another theory is that the change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood. Similarly, it could be caused by an imbalance of serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood.
While seasonal depression is most commonly experienced during the fall and winter months, it can also occur in the spring and summer. This type of SAD is less common but still affects a significant number of people. The change from longer to shorter days during the summer may lead to feelings of irritability, agitation, and restlessness.
How Seasonal Depression vs. Other Types of Depression
Seasonal depression shares many symptoms with other types of depression, such as persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. However, there are some key differences that distinguish seasonal depression from typical depression.
One major difference is that seasonal depression is highly dependent on the time of year. This means that symptoms usually improve or disappear during specific seasons, while other forms of depression can last for longer periods. Additionally, seasonal depression may also include certain symptoms that are specific to the season, such as increased appetite and weight gain during the winter months.
Signs of Seasonal Depression
The symptoms of seasonal depression can vary from person to person, but some common signs to look out for include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite and weight (typically increased appetite and weight gain)
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Low energy levels and fatigue
- Feeling agitated or irritable
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Withdrawal from social interactions and activities
If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, it may be a sign of seasonal depression. It’s important to seek help from a mental health professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment Options for Seasonal Depression
Fortunately, there are several effective treatments available for seasonal depression. Depending on the severity of symptoms and individual needs, treatment may include:
- Therapy – Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can help individuals with seasonal depression learn healthy coping skills and manage symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be particularly effective in treating SAD.
- Medication – Antidepressant medications may be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms of seasonal depression. It’s important to work with a healthcare provider to find the right medication and dosage for your specific needs.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy and Spravato® can both be used as approaches for treatment-resistant depression. If seasonal depression does not improve with therapy or medication, these approaches can help.
Whether you experience seasonal depression or another type of depression, know that there is help available.