Written by Shane Lueck
Seasonal Affective Disorder or “depression with a seasonal pattern” is considered a subtype of major depression. According to psychotherapist Julie Childs, one criteria for diagnosing depression with a seasonal pattern includes depression that begins and ends during a specific season every year, usually beginning in the fall and continuing through the winter months. Additionally, these experiences must be present for at least the last two years.
“One of the possible causes attributed to seasonal depression is the shorter daylight and sunlight hours that occur in the fall and winter months,” Childs explains. “This decrease in sunlight affects people differently and can disturb your body’s internal clock. This disturbance can lead to feelings of depression. Also, reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin levels. Simply stated, serotonin is a brain chemical that affects mood. These lower levels of serotonin may contribute to depression symptoms.”
Thankfully, seasonal depression can be treated in a number of ways, beginning with recognizing if you are experiencing depression with a seasonal pattern and identifying your specific symptoms as a first step.
One of the primary treatments for treating seasonal depression is called “light therapy,” which involves exposure to a specific type of artificial light that Childs describes as being brighter than indoor light, but not as bright as sunlight. “Other treatments for seasonal depression include forming connections with others and asking others for help when needed,” Childs says. “It’s also important to pay attention to your sleep patterns and diet/nutritional needs. Not getting enough sleep, making poor food choices (such as eating too many sweets or consuming too much alcohol) may exacerbate the symptoms.”
Due to a possible drop in serotonin levels as a result of reduced sunlight in the winter, Childs suggests exercise as part of treating seasonal depression. Numerous studies indicate that exercise has shown to increase both serotonin production and release, which is important in improving mood and raising the serotonin levels. Some studies even indicate that exercise may be as effective as taking anti-depressant medication. With any exercise plan it is always advisable to consult with your physician on what plan is best for you. READ MORE
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