When the rain just won’t go away.
It is getting to be that time of year when the sun sits lower on the horizon and slinks away far too early in the day for anyone’s liking. When getting off of work at 5pm feels more like midnight, it’s easy to lose motivation and precious vitamin D, and like a thief in the night, in creeps that winter gloom again.
The changing of the seasons can throw you off your game in a multitude of ways. Lack of exposure to sunlight can literally make you sad as it leads to drops in serotonin levels – the brain’s “happy” chemical. Less sun time also disrupts the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm), leading to increased melatonin levels (the hormone responsible for dictating when it is time to sleep and wake up) and overall feelings of sluggishness.
It is not uncommon to find yourself feeling a little lazier on a dark and dreary winter day. Seasonal depression affects 1 in 20 people annually in the United States, and of that 5%, 4 out of 5 are women, as reported by Mental Health America. Young adults with a genetic predisposition who live far from the equator are more likely to experience SAD.
Symptoms of seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), mirror those of general depression: change in diet and sleeping patterns, mood swings, lack of interest, anxiety, feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and despair. Whereas general depression can last for months, even years, seasonal depression will wax and wane depending on the earth’s position in relation to the sun.
When treating seasonal depression, psychotherapy can be beneficial. Positive psychology is particularly helpful in identifying negative patterns of thinking and implementing positive coping techniques. Positive psychology interventions, like the Say ‘Yes’ to Life (SYTL) Program, work to increase hope, gratitude, engagement, social support, building resilience, and finding purpose.
Light therapy has also proven effective when treating seasonal depression. Studies show that exposure to bright artificial light suppresses melatonin production, having an antidepressant effect. Medication can also be prescribed to treat seasonal depression. It is helpful to be aware that it may take a couple of weeks to feel the effects and because there are various types of antidepressants that produce or suppress different chemicals, you may need to try a few medications before finding the right one for you.
With winter quickly approaching, it is important to be mindful of any changes in your mood. Depression of any kind is isolating, but you do not have to suffer alone or in silence. If you notice signs of depression in you or a loved one, book an appointment to see your doctor. If you are in the Northern New Jersey area, contact us at the Sherry Blair Institute where we offer wraparound in-home services to help guide you out and keep you out of dark times.
*If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call your healthcare provider, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), or 911 for emergency assistance.*