Seasonal depression, also called seasonal affective disorder, is a form of depression that occurs during the same time period every year. The condition is more often experienced in the winter months when there is less sunlight. Some symptoms of seasonal depression include anxiety, feeling helpless, mood swings, irritability and becoming anti-social. This mental disorder should not be confused with what is commonly known as the “winter blues”. Researchers and psychiatrists believe the seasonal occurrence is due to your biological clock. Patients who suffer from seasonal depression during the winter months will not begin feeling better until the sunnier days come in the spring time. The dark, gloomy days filled with anxiety and depression during this time period will eventually take a toll on a once healthy mentality.
The cold and rainy winter months are not the only causes of seasonal depression. The holidays can sometimes be depressing for people rather than a time for celebration and cheerfulness. People in older generations who were raised during rough time periods may associate the holidays with bad memories or difficult childhoods. Others may have lost a loved one during the holidays, or simply do not have family to share the time with.
How is Seasonal Depression Treated?
Seasonal depression is often treated with anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications. Another treatment used by doctors called light therapy consists of patients receiving periods of artificial sunlight each day during the winter months. This method has proven to help balance the biological clock in the body. Though the condition is believed to be biological, therapy with a mental health professional is another option for treatment.
If you are depressed, lonely or feel helpless during the same time period every year, you may suffer from seasonal depression. There are many ways to prevent this annual hardship as supplements to professional treatment. During the winter months when the weather is gloomy and depressing, plan a vacation to a sunny beach with the family, or take some time to yourself. If getting away is not a financially reasonable option, keep a journal and write down a few positive things every day. You will soon find that you are just as happy with yourself, regardless of the time of year. Another healthy practice is to spend more time with family and friends. If you are feeling down, avoid isolating yourself. Get out and stay active while enjoying new activities.
Always remember to take a step back and remind yourself of what makes you happy in life. Further, do not be afraid to reach out for professional help as all forms of depression must be taken seriously.
Dr. Fieve is a psychopharmacologist located in New York City specializing in mood disorders such as clinical depression, bi-polar disorder and seasonal depression. No matter what time of the year you experience signs of depression, Dr. Fieve and his team of expert psychiatrists are here to help. The Fieve Depression Center is only one call away and always at your service.
Do not let the seasons or holidays bring you down. Talk with Dr. Fieve today to ensure you are healthy and happy all year, every year.
For more information, please call Paula at 212-249-1600.