Medically known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), seasonal depression is a cyclical form of mental illness brought on by the short days of winter, persisting until the weather starts to change in the spring. Affecting about 5% of the adult American population, SAD usually starts before the age of 30 and tends to affect women more than men.
Many more adults suffer from a mild condition called the winter blues. While this might have them craving vacations in sunny, warm places, the blues usually don’t interfere with their ability to complete tasks at work or at home. Seasonal depression is serious enough to affect your daily living.
The depression specialists at Premier Psychiatry can help you when the symptoms of SAD invade your quality of life. Any depressive condition can interfere with your ability to fully live life. As well as treatment with our team of professionals, there are some things you can do to fight off seasonal depression. Consider these techniques to reduce the burden of colder weather and shorter days.
The reasons why seasonal depression occurs aren’t fully understood. It’s likely to do with the effects of the change of seasons on your circadian rhythms, aspects of your body’s inner clock. This could create chemical changes in your brain, primarily with melatonin and serotonin levels, neurotransmitters that interact with your metabolism and moods. Reduced sun exposure contributes to drops in serotonin levels, a potential reason for depression.
You can minimize the impact of the transition to winter by ramping up mood-boosting activities in the fall. Enjoy time outdoors before the weather makes it a chore. Starting a new activity or hobby, taking a class, or joining a service group could all stimulate your mind in new ways. The more engaged you are both mentally and physically, the better your preparation for winter’s literal darkest days.
A session in front of a bright light therapy (BLT) device, 20 to 30 minutes per day, is a recognized front-line treatment for SAD. BLT units are affordable, easy to use, and widely available. Typically, a BLT session in the first hour after waking produces the best results. We’d be happy to assist you in choosing a suitable BLT device.
A type of alarm clock that uses a gradually increasing light source to wake you slowly and naturally may serve as a way to smooth out shocks to your circadian cycle. While blackout curtains may help you fall asleep more soundly, they block the gradual increase in daylight in the morning. Also, in the shortest days of winter, you may need to wake up ahead of natural sunrise. Dawn simulators have similar effects on depression as does BLT therapy.
These are just a few of many minor lifestyle tweaks that might help you avoid seasonal depression. Concentration on good nutrition and physical activity add positive benefits to mental health, and limiting your alcohol intake removes another depressive contributor. A winter getaway can help you, too.
When your efforts don’t provide sufficient relief from SAD, we’re standing by. Call our Orland Park, Illinois, office directly or request an appointment through our online booking tool. Let Premier Psychiatry help you get your winter life back on track. Schedule your consultation now.