Do you dread the winter months because you feel more lethargic, experience low energy & motivation? You arre not alone.
Your Winter depression has a name. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression. This recurrent mood disorder affects many Americans and they display symptoms similar to other depressive disorders or depressive episodes. Some people experience low mood, weight gain or weight loss, lack of energy or lower energy levels overall. Some SAD patients experience feelings of depression, social withdrawal, or even physical pain.
Unfortunately, Season Affective Disorder can lead to substance abuse as a coping mechanism which is why we take SAD seriously at Sober Life because we know how closely linked substance abuse can be to mental health disorders.
Do you experience SAD and try to cope by pushing through? You don’t have to grit your teeth and bear it and you don’t have to face it alone.
There are many different types of depression. In this article, we’ll talk more about the symptoms of SAD, and offer some solutions proven to help lessen them.
How have you tried to cope with it? People living in the northern parts of the continent tend to experience mood shifts during the cold months. Winter blues, if untreated, may permeate all aspects of life or lead to chronic depression.
There are scientific reasons why winter months tend to increase depressive episodes. For starters people have less exposure to sunlight or natural light, leading to higher cortisol levels and lower melatonin and Vitamin D levels. Reduced sunlight can also mean changes in serotonin and melatonin levels, and disrupt the body’s internal clock.
The sun powers so many biological factors that when it retreats, it’s no surprise that depressive symptoms, such as feeling hopeless, low energy, irritable or agitated, marked anxiety increases, losing interest in things once enjoyed, and even having suicidal thoughts drift in with the snow.
People who suffer from a cyclical kind of depression based on seasonal changes may experience their moods shifting in an on-again, off-again fashion. The oscillations follow a somewhat regular schedule, with depressive episodes usually easing in the Springtime and Summer months.
High-risk groups more likely to develop Seasonal Affective Disorder are; women, or people with other mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Young people can also be affected when the level of their activities decreases dramatically in winter. What is alarming about Seasonal Affective Disorder is that it can lead to other more chronic forms of depression, mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorder, panic attacks, ADHD, and eating disorders.
Treatment for Winter Depression
Seasonal Affective Disorder is fairly common but it is also preventable and treatable because its causes are fairly straightforward. People who detect their own cyclical patterns of depression as influenced by the winter season can learn to build self-care strategies before the onset of symptoms.
Because serotonin can get a boost from vitamin D, taking this vitamin supplement can be helpful. If you have experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder in the past, maybe it is beneficial to start a habit of taking vitamin D supplements starting from early fall so that your body does not have vitamin D deficiency when winter months are here
Other therapies include exposing yourself to artificial light to help increase your Vitamin D and serotonin levels but be sure to avoid ultraviolet rays (for example in tanning beds) if you can. There are different types of light treatments involving special lamps (SAD lamps), so be sure to speak to your health care provider about your options.
Avoiding Complications from Seasonal Affective Disorder
In severe cases of winter blues, some people withdraw from their social life and or resort to using substances to numb their feelings. This may happen before you are even aware of it so it’s best to plan on doing some activities to try and prevent some symptoms of depression.
Apart from trying to increase your levels of Vitamin D, you should intentionally create time and space for indoor exercises at home or in the gym. Whenever the sun is out, try to have a walk outside to expose yourself to sunlight. Both activities will help boost your mood.
Some people can also benefit from light therapy by using a special device called a light therapy box, which gives off bright light that is similar to natural outdoor light. This therapy has been proven to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep. If you combine meditation, yoga, or mindfulness exercises with the use of light therapy, you could double the positive effects of light therapy.
Winter Self-Care Advice
We all need to do more intentional self-care during the winter months. Apart from regular exercise and eating a healthy diet, you can resume some fun indoor activities that bring you joy and peace. Seek activities that stimulate your senses, such as smell or sight like aromatherapy or culinary art classes. Anything to get your mind and body engaged.
Planning a winter getaway is often a good choice to improve SAD symptoms and have something to look forward to. Warmer and sunnier weather can surely boost your mood if you can get to a warm climate or if budget is a factor try and schedule a local getaway or staycation.
Can I get SAD in the Summer Months?
Since Seasonal Affective Depression is caused by lack of sunlight, so if you are experiencing depressive symptoms during sunny months, you may have a different depressive disorder so we recommend you speak to your favorite health care or primary care provider and put together a mental health treatment plan.
Some people call SAD a form of mild depression but if you’ve ever experienced any forms of depression, you understand that mild symptoms can still be debilitating which is why we always recommend finding help, even if you’re unsure.
When To Reach Out For Help
But if depressive moods still stick around in Spring and Summer, even after you take many of these suggestions, maybe it is time to seek help from a professional therapist and or medication like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) or other antidepressant medications, as you could be suffering from major depression or a similar mood disorder. Psychotherapy (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) has been proven to help people identify negative thinking patterns and prevent them from spiralling. Seek professional help early if symptoms worsen or if you recognize a seasonal pattern, there are therapies that can help with prevention.
If you or someone in your life is struggling with seasonal depressive disorder or its co-occurring condition of substance addiction, Sober Life Recovery can help. We focus on individualized care for mental health and substance use problems. We will help support you as you find a way through your depression.
Your mental health is important and therapy can help. We can put you in touch with an experienced mental health professional with a track record of finding effective treatments for SAD patients. Call and speak with us today at (619) 542-9542