Seasonal Depression: A Definition, Major Symptoms, And How One May Treat This Condition

Date November 27, 2017

Seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is connected with changes in seasons. If you feel depressed or inactive only during certain periods of the year, you could have this condition. SAD starts and ends at the same times every year, making you feel drained of energy. Typically, seasonal depression begins in the autumn and continues during winter months. More rarely, it happens in the spring or summer.

Sometimes it is difficult to diagnose seasonal affective disorder because it can mimic other conditions like low blood sugar, underactive thyroid, chronic fatigue syndrome or viral illnesses. It is important not to brush off this yearly feeling and take measures to keep your mood steady throughout the year.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, nearly 4 to 6 percent of Americans experience seasonal depression. Women and young people are at greater risk. People who have a family history of depression or bipolar disorder can be particularly vulnerable to SAD.

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder

Common signs and symptoms of this condition include the following:

  • feeling depressed nearly every day;
  • losing interest in your favorite activities;
  • having trouble sleeping;
  • having low energy levels;
  • feeling hopeless and guilty;
  • having thoughts of death or suicide;
  • having problems with concentration;
  • experiencing changes in your weight and appetite.

The specific symptoms of winter SAD may also include:

  • changes in appetite, sugar cravings;
  • oversleeping;
  • weight gain;
  • persistent tiredness.

When to see a doctor

It is completely normal to have some bad days when you feel down. But if you have a bad mood or you haven’t enough energy to do activities you usually enjoy, visit your doctor. This is particularly important if your sleep patterns and dietary habits have changed or you start to drink alcohol for relaxation.

Treatment for seasonal affective disorder may vary from person to person. It often includes medications and psychotherapy. Light therapy is also a great way to ease the depression in some patients. Scientists believe the light helps your brain produce more serotonin, a hormone that is responsible for your mood.

What you can do

Some lifestyle changes can also help. Here are several steps that can ease the seasonal depression symptoms:

Be physically active

Exercise can change your mood for the better and help with anxiety. Your goal should be at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times a week. You may try yoga to reduce stress in your life.

Get outside in sunny days

Take advantage of sunlight; it can lessen the symptoms. Too much UV light can be harmful to your skin, so think about sunscreen. The key is to be in bright environments when it is possible.

Improve your sleep quality

Try not to oversleep, 7-9 hours every night would be enough for a productive day.

Keep a regular schedule

Doctors recommend people with SAD to maintain a regular schedule. It can lessen the symptoms and even protect you from overeating. It is important to go to bed and have your meals at the same time every day.

Source: EverydayHealth, WebMD, MayoClinic

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This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.