This is the time of year that many people; young and old, look forward to. The days grow shorter and colder, the holiday season is upon us, and we near the turn of another year. This is also a time of year that affects many people’s overall mood. Some will refer to it as the “winter blues”, the “holiday blues”, or something similar. But how do you determine if it is something more than just wanting to keep warm under the covers all day, giving up certain beloved activities, change in appetite, or not wanting to spend time with friends and loved ones?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is best defined as a category of depression that emerges in particular seasons of the year. While many people have reported experiencing depressive-type symptoms during the fall and winter months, Seasonal Affective Disorder can also affect people with the coming of the spring/summer season. People may experience changes with their sleep patterns (either oversleeping or interrupted sleep/insomnia), eating changes (more or less than usual), feeling “blah” or depressed most of the day with seemingly no cause or trigger, feeling listless and having no energy, feeling hopelessness/guilt/worthlessness, or not wanting to be around others, difficulty focusing/concentrating, and in extreme cases; thoughts of death and suicide.
Seasonal Affective Disorder; although similar, is not recognized on its own as Major Depressive Disorder and can often pass as the individual adjusts to the seasonal change. Should one experience these symptoms the majority of the aforementioned symptoms nearly everyday for two weeks or more; it may be time for you to let your primary care physician know what you have been noticing (to rule out a medical issue) or schedule a session with a licensed mental health professional (psychologist, psychiatrist, or licensed counselor/therapist) to determine how best to address these issues. One can also make certain lifestyle/routine changes to see if they have a positive effect in improving your overall mood as well, such as trying to get outside more (natural sunlight is very effective for helping to improve your mood), exercise/physical activity, ensuring that you’re getting enough sleep (which may mean turning off the cell phone/TV/computer a bit earlier than you had been), incorporating a healthy diet, and engaging in a relaxing activity (such as yoga, aromatherapy, reading, listening to soothing music, etc.). Another treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder is Light or Phototherapy; whereas one uses a special box or lamp that emits light that is very similar to natural sunlight, and this light increases the pleasure-provoking chemicals in the brain (Serotonin) and helps to better regulate and normalize your mood. Please note, purchase and use of a light box or special lamp for Light Therapy should only be done under the advisement of a medical professional; as you want to ensure that you purchase something that is going to be safe as well as effective.
Be well ~NB😘