Seasonal Depression

Elijah Nichols, Reporter

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of melancholy related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same time every year. Most people with SAD have signs and symptoms that start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping a person’s strength and making an individual become more capricious. Less often, SAD can resurge in the spring or early summer.

Treatment for SAD may encompass mild therapy (phototherapy), medications, and psychotherapy. Phototherapy is the use of lights and warm tones to change the chemicals being released into the brain. Without phototherapy it is a lot harder to unmedically alter the brain’s chemicals because the lack of natural light from the outdoors.

Do not brush off that yearly feeling as a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk. Taking steps to help treat SAD will benefit an individual’s life more than most believe. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of SAD may also include, “feeling depressed most of the day, almost every day, losing interest in activities as soon as one enjoyed them, having low energy, having problems with sleeping, experiencing changes in your urge for food or weight, feeling gradual or agitated, having difficulty concentrating, feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty, having well-known thoughts of dying or suicide, fall and winter SAD, oversleeping, appetite changes, particularly a craving for meals high in carbohydrates, weight gain, tiredness or low energy, trouble slumbering (insomnia) poor appetite, weight loss, and agitation or anxiety.”

Another effect can be seasonal modifications in bipolar disorder. The light therapy strategy for bipolar depression is similar to that for SAD, although physicians must be careful and cautious about emergence of manic or mixed states, even with mood stabilizers. If an individual is inside for too long they will become more aggressive, lazy, spastic or anything that would be not in their nature. Often once the individual is outside for an extended time they will resort back to how they were before they went to the abnormal activity. 

In some people with bipolar disorder, spring and summertime can bring on signs of mania or a much less severe form of mania (hypomania), and fall and wintry weather can be a time of depression.

It is normal to have some days when you experience being down: however, if someone feels down for days at a time and can not get encouraged to do activities they typically enjoy it is important to go see a physician or a specialist. This is specifically important if someone’s sleep patterns and appetite have changed, they turn to alcohol for relief or relaxation, or they feel hopeless or think about suicide.

If you or anyone you know is feeling suicide or at risk of hurting themselves or others please call 1-800-273-8255 for free confidential help or text HOME to 741741 for free confidential support. Never ignore how you are feeling. Seasonal depression is still depression.