Each season has its own identity and characteristics. Spring is a time of rejuvenation, flowers, rebirth, and warm weather. Summer is all about fun, the beach, sunshine, and swimming. Fall is characterized by pumpkin spice, haunted hay rides, pecan pie, and beautiful foliage. And then there is winter. From a positive perspective, winter can be a time for snuggling under warm blankets, drinking hot chocolate, and making snow angels. However, winter is also commonly associated with falling temperatures, shoveling driveways, shorter days, and darkness. Clocks are pushed back an hour as part of daylight savings time and suddenly, it gets darker a minute earlier every day until the winter solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year.
When the absence of sunshine and the resulting darkness is paired with frigid temperatures, sleet, snow, and rain, it can leave a pretty bleak picture. When in the dead of January, winter has the tendency to feel as if it will never end. Most would probably agree that there are moments of winter that are downright depressing. As with anything, some people have the ability to cope better with these challenging conditions than others. For some, winter can be an extremely difficult time.
Seasonal affective disorder is a category of depression linked with seasonal changes. Most individuals start to experience symptoms during the fall as winter approaches, but there are some people who can experience seasonal depression during the spring and beginning of summer. It can be tricky to determine if lack of energy and feeling down are just part of some winter blues, or if it is indicative of something more serious.
5 signs of Seasonal Depression include:
- Depressed mood: A sign of seasonal depression is when a person feels depressed for the majority of the day every day. Depressed moods can prevent a person from wanting to socialize and engage with others, causing isolative behaviors. Depression can consist of excessive tearfulness, irritability, restlessness, and agitation.
- Changes in patterns of sleeping and eating: Another sign of seasonal depression is when a person’s sleeping patterns change. Individuals tend to sleep for longer durations of time, although some may sleep less. A person can also experience changes in eating habits and appetite. Individuals may begin to experience cravings or eat different types of food than usual, causing weight gain. On the other hand, people may eat less, causing their weight to decline.
- Fatigue and low energy: A lack of energy and feeling sluggish on a daily basis can be a sign of seasonal affective disorder. Feeling tired and unmotivated can make each day feel especially long, causing a person to feel badly about themselves from lack of productiveness. Excessive tiredness can make work and school more challenging.
- Loss of interest: Seasonal depression can cause a lack of interest in activities that are normally enjoyable for a person. An individual may no longer want to participate in recreational activities, hobbies, or sporting activities.
- Feelings of hopelessness: Excessive feelings of bleakness and despair can be indicative of seasonal affective disorder. Individuals may feel worthless, or as if things will never improve. In serious cases, feelings of hopelessness can lead to suicidal thoughts or self-medicating through alcohol or drugs.
Treatment options for seasonal affective disorder include psychotherapy, medication, and light therapy. Light therapy, also called phototherapy, utilizes a light box that imitates natural sunlight. Talk therapy can help a person to improve coping skills and manage stress. In some cases, antidepressant medication may also be prescribed when warranted. With the right type of treatment, individuals can experience all of the wonderful things that fall and winter can offer, while making the less positive aspects of seasonal changes a little more manageable.