Could Seasonal Affective Disorder be the cause of your "winter blues"?

Temperatures are getting colder and colder, and snow is falling as we dive head-first into the winter season. During the transition from fall to winter, some people may have noticed that their mood began changing, and not for the better. If the winter season has you feeling down or depressed it’s possible Seasonal Affective Disorder is the culprit. Seasonal Affective Disorder shares many of the same symptoms as major depressive disorder, with symptoms that start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder

So, what is seasonal affective disorder? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that accompanies changes in seasons. This particular form of depression may make you feel depressed, agitated, sluggish, unmotivated, or tired. It can cause oversleeping in some, while others may find they have trouble sleeping at all. Other symptoms include weight gain, and changes in appetite, especially an increase in cravings for foods high in carbohydrates.

The cause of SAD is unknown. However, some factors that may play a role are changes in melatonin or serotonin levels caused by the change in season and a decrease in sunlight. The decrease in sunlight may also disrupt your circadian rhythm, or biological clock, which can affect your mood and lead to feelings of depression.

How is seasonal depression treated?

There are a variety of treatment options available to those suffering from seasonal depression, and may include light therapy, talk therapy, or medication.

  • Light Therapy: Light therapy is one of the main forms of treatment for SAD, and is usually best for those suffering from mild symptoms. The goal of light therapy is to improve mood and reset your circadian rhythm by using a special light box that exposes you to bright light that mimics natural, outdoor lighting. There are a number of bright-light boxes on the market that be used at home. We recommend The Verilux Happy Light that can be purchased on Amazon.

  • Talk Therapy: SAD can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy. During talk therapy sessions, a physician will identify negative thoughts, feelings, habits, or actions that could be contributing to your depressed mood. The goal is to learn how to cope with SAD and replace negative thinking and actions with positive ones.

  • Medication: Antidepressant medications may be needed to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder in those who have a history of SAD symptoms during this time of year, especially if the symptoms are severe.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, or you think SAD could be the reason for your recent change in mood or behavior, you should contact your doctor. Your doctor will conduct a thorough evaluation and determine the treatment method that is right for you.

Contact the office of Signature Psychiatry Associates at 330-835-4000 to learn more about the services offered or to schedule an appointment.

Learn more about a non-drug treatment option that is available for those suffering from depression. Visit our TMS Therapy web page for more details as well as informational videos and FAQs.