Seasonal depression is more than just “the winter blues.”
Wintertime can be dark and dreary. If you’ve ever dreaded the change in weather and shorter days, you’re not alone. But does your change in mood affect your personality or productivity? If so, you could be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Understanding what makes SAD unique is important for finding the right treatment.
What You Need to Know About SAD
SAD is a type of major depression that occurs at the onset of a season and usually lasts for months at a time. Symptoms are often severe enough to impact a person’s quality of life. Symptoms can include:
- Irritability, sadness and/or hopelessness
- Problems sleeping
- Social withdrawal
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Weight gain
Summertime SAD symptoms may also include:
- Violent outbursts
Experts aren’t sure what exactly causes SAD, but it’s more common in those with a family history of depression, other mental health conditions or low levels of Vitamin D. Maintaining regular appointments with your primary care provider and openly discussing any medical history can be important for preventing and treating SAD.
How Do You Treat SAD?
Light therapy, also called phototherapy, is a common treatment for SAD. Daily exposure to a portable light therapy box can make symptoms more manageable.
Increase Vitamin D
Take advantage of sunshine, even limited exposure, during winter months to increase vitamin D. Vitamin D can also be found in foods such as cow milk, almonds, salmon and eggs.
Create a support system by talking to a therapist in person or remotely to help decrease feelings of isolation or loneliness.
For some, SAD symptoms can improve with medication. Your doctor can help determine if this is the right step for you.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You also can text the Crisis Text Line (HELLO to 741741) or use the Lifeline Chat on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.