In the deepest days of winter, virtually everyone has experience with the winter blues, days when it seems the sunshine of spring and summer may never return. As many as 3% of the American population may experience a more severe form of mood disorder called seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
While most of those suffering from SAD see symptoms occurring in the winter, some may feel the effects beginning with other seasons. No matter when SAD starts, it can sometimes extend past the season and may become re-diagnosed as major depressive or bipolar disorder.
The good news, though, is that SAD can be treated. When you struggle with the changes of season, consider a visit to meet with Dr. Jon Deam and his team at Dr. Jon Deam. As a depression specialist who focuses on therapy and life coaching, Dr. Jon can help you develop effective strategies to get past this depression cycle on the path to wellness and well-being.
Symptoms of SAD
Late fall and early winter are the prime times for SAD symptoms to emerge for most, though it can be a spring and summer combination for some. Typically, symptoms start mildly and escalate as the season progresses. The most common symptoms include:
- Lost energy
- Feelings of sadness or depression virtually every day, throughout the day
- Loss of interest in hobbies, sports, or other activities you enjoy
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in weight
- Sleep disorders, either too much or not enough
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
- Thoughts of suicide and death
Fall/winter SAD has some common patterns that may affect you, such as oversleeping, craving carbohydrates, weight gain, and low energy levels. Those with spring/summer SAD tend to experience insomnia, lack of appetite, weight loss, and anxiety.
Spending time outdoors is often a helpful tonic for easing SAD symptoms. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sunny or cloudy day, being outside is a powerful tool against depression. When it’s not enough on its own, vitamin D supplements or phototherapy can boost the effect.
Phototherapy, sometimes called light therapy, works best for fall/winter SAD when natural daylight hours are shorter. It involves spending time being exposed to a special lamp that’s about 20 times brighter than regular household light. Phototherapy is usually most effective in the morning, for about 15 to 30 minutes.
Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are two approaches that work well to counter the mood effects of SAD. These work by helping you recognize the way SAD distorts your thinking while providing you with the tools to modify some aspects of your responsive behavior to ease the burden that SAD creates. CBT is proving to be one of the longest-lasting treatments for SAD.
For some patients, antidepressant medications may be combined with other therapies. Generally, an effective SAD management plan includes several approaches in combination.
Relieving your own SAD burden starts by contacting Dr. Jon Deam by phone or online. The practice specializes in telehealth therapy. Book your consultation now, before you fully feel the depths of winter.
Author Dr. Jon Deam