Watch for signs of seasonal depression
October 17, 2013
If you notice periods of depression that seem to accompany seasonal changes during the year, you may suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This condition is characterized by recurrent episodes of depression – usually in late fall and winter, when the number of hours of sun is decreased. Natural melatonin levels drop and less sun exposure decreases the brain chemical serotonin, which affects mood.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SAD?
Symptoms of SAD usually begin in October or November and subside in March or April. Regardless of the time of onset, most patients don’t feel fully back to normal until early May. The usual characteristics of recurrent winter depression include:
- Daytime fatigue
- Carbohydrate craving
- Weight gain.
- Decreased sexual interest
- Suicidal thoughts
- Lack of interest in normal activities
- Social withdrawal.
TREATMENT IS AVAILABLE
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not uncommon and is very treatable. If your depressive symptoms are severe enough to significantly affect your daily living, consult a mental health professional qualified to treat SAD. He or she can help you find the most appropriate treatment for you.
SOME SUGGESTED NON MEDICAL INTERVENTIONS YOU MIGHT WANT TO TRY: Keep track of your daily symptoms and their severity. Recognize your current life stressors. Avoid alcohol as it is a central nervous system depressant and will compound depressive symptoms. Get outside during the day, especially within two hours of getting up in the morning. Exercise. Daily exercise has repeatedly been proven to decrease mild to moderate depressive symptoms.
IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, SEEK IMMEDIATE CARE, EITHER THROUGH YOUR DOCTOR OR THROUGH THE NEAREST HOSPITAL EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT.
Many people struggling with seasonal depression benefit from supportive psychotherapy. In therapy a counselor will help you develop coping skills to address your day- to- day symptoms. Often a therapist will recommend use of light therapy or phototherapy where a person will sit in front of a light box to mimic the light of a sun while indoors. For some persons, especially for those where therapy or change in life style hasn't helped or if the person begins to experience thoughts of suicide, medication is often indicated and effective.