Tips For Making Winters Easier
Diagnosis or not, a lot of people have a harder time staying cheerful in the winter. Between cold weather, less light, and holiday stress, keeping the whole family mentally healthy can require a little extra effort.
We have to be more aware of, how do we take care of ourselves? notes Dr. Bernstein. How do we take care of our kids? How do we maintain the healthy habits, even when it gets harder?
To that end, she recommends getting ahead of the seasons challenges by putting a few strategies in place now, whether or not youre dealing with seasonal affective disorder.
Whatever you choose to do, a team effort can make it easier to stay on track. Its not going to be just the individual whos dealing with depression or a pattern of challenges, Dr. Bernstein says. If your child is having a hard time, think about what would be helpful for them and use that to create some practices that the whole family can follow together.
Are There Clinical Trials Studying Sad
NIMH supports a wide range of research, including clinical trials that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditionsincluding SAD. Although individuals may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so that others may be better helped in the future.
Researchers at NIMH and around the country conduct clinical trials with patients and healthy volunteers. Talk to your health care provider about clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether one is right for you. For more information about clinical research and how to find clinical trials being conducted around the country, visit the NIMH Clinical Trials page.
Experiencing A Sense Of Hopelessness Or Helplessness
Similar to textbook depression, seasonal depression can manifest itself in a serious emotional decline, explains Jason Woodrum, ACSW at New Method Wellness. “We often talk about there being a season for all emotions in life, and while that is true, what is examined when looking for seasonal depression is a multi year period of disproportional emotional decline that is significantly impacting one’s life,” he explains. This can take the shape of impacting your relationships with those you care about, your professional performance, or even your own ability to feel well and at ease.
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Why Do I Have Seasonal Depression
The fall and winter months can be some of the most stressful times of the year for many. Added holiday pressures can trigger heightened difficulties for those with depression, anxiety, and other disorders. For some, these months bring about seasonal depression that may not occur at other times of the year.
Medication And Psychotherapy For Seasonal Affective Disorder
While light therapy is often a highly effective treatment for SAD or the winter blues, it doesnt work for everyone. If thats the case, dont despair, there are other effective treatment options available and plenty of self-help techniques to help you feel better.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be highly beneficial for people with seasonal depression. The right therapist can help you curb negative thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that make the disorder worse and help you learn how to manage symptoms and deal with stress in healthy ways. For many people, CBT can be as effective at treating seasonal affective disorder as light therapy or antidepressants, but without any risky side-effects.
Medication. If light therapy doesnt work for you, your doctor may suggest antidepressant medication. SSRI antidepressants work by acting on serotonin levels in the brain to reduce SAD symptoms. In the U.S., the FDA has specifically approved the drug bupropion to treat seasonal affective disorder. However, as with all antidepressants, there may be adverse side effects, including a number of safety concerns specific to children and young adults. Its important to weigh the benefits against the risks before starting on medication.
Whatever treatment plan you settle on, its important to combine it with self-help techniques to help manage your depression symptoms and even help prevent seasonal affective disorder returning next year.
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What Is The Difference Between Sad And Depression
When distinguishing between a diagnosis of depression and depression with a seasonal pattern, it all comes down to timing. Dr. Scanlon says that the symptoms for both are likely very similar or even identical.
A person suffering from major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern would experience common symptoms such as depressed mood, weight gain , excessive sleep or drowsiness, a loss of interest in things previously enjoyed. The person may experience hopelessness and even suicidality in fall and winter months, as opposed to the rest of the year.
In order for someone to be diagnosed with depression with seasonal pattern, they would have to experience:
- at least two years of symptoms that become worse during a specific time of the year
- the seasonal depressive episodes must significantly outweigh the nonseasonal episodes
Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle
Just like any other symptom, seasonal depression can be a sign that somethings off in the body. Therefore, taking care of your body can help reduce the effects of SAD. For example, exercise and physical activity have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Exercise or physical activity can improve mood in both standard depression and seasonal affective disorder, Dr. Greenblatt agreed. Also, evaluating and treating other nutritional deficiencies should also be considered, including iron, vitamin B12, folate, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, so get in a variety of healthy foods with these nutrients. A healthy body means a healthy mind, and taking care of yourself in general can help your body adapt to changes in the season.
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How Can Seasonal Depression Be Treated
Some people will see symptoms in August, but they usually become present between October-November, and tend subside between March-April. Since it has a somewhat predicable patter on occurrence, there are measures that can be taken ahead of time to help manage symptoms.
- Increasing physical activity which can help release endorphins
- Meditate and use other stress management techniques
- Increasing the amount of light when inside
- Spend more time outside
- Stay hydrate to nourish the brain
- Spend time with others to lessen the feelings of loneliness
Unlike other depressive orders, light therapy can be used as one method for treatment and has shown to be up to 85% effective in helping the reduce the symptoms as it suppresses the brains secretion of melatonin. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a subset of major depression and if symptoms continue, you may need to seek further medical help.
What Are The Signs Of Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Engaging in self-harming behaviors, like cutting
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or numb
- Thoughts of or attempts at suicide
As in other kinds of depression, a diagnosis is only made if several of these symptoms are present for at least two weeks. Additionally, the pattern of depression coming and going with the seasons must occur for at least two years to be considered SAD.
Its also important to rule out other sources of stress. One of the criteria for this particular diagnosis is that its not associated with a seasonal pattern where theres always a stressor, says Dr. Bernstein. For example, a child who participates in a stressful winter sport and always get depressed when it starts would not be diagnosed with SAD, because their change in mood was not caused by the change in season itself.
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Lack Of Energy Even With More Sleep
Despite the increased sleep, people with SAD often feel lacking in energy because sleeping longer doesnt necessarily equate to sleeping better. Many people with seasonal depression have insomnia and other sleep problems because of an imbalance in chemicals such as melatonin, serotonin, and dopamine. Scientists have found that people with SAD overproduce melatonin, which helps regulate sleep. Additionally, they dont produce enough serotonin, which helps to regulate moods.
What Is Samhsa’s National Helpline
SAMHSAs National Helpline, , or TTY: is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
Also visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 to find help near you. Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service.
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People With Sad: Who Gets It And Why
Researchers havent been able to figure out conclusively why some people get seasonal affective disorder, and others dont. They have been able to identify specific reasons and populations of people that tend to be more affected by it than others.
For some unknown reason, women are four times more at risk of SAD than men. Women who are nurses or who work second shift are particularly at risk of getting SAD.
Men and women that live far north or south of the equator are also more prone to getting SAD. This study shows that 1% of Florida residents and 9% of those in New England and Alaska live with SAD.
Researchers also believe that people with a family history of other types of depression may acquire SAD more quickly than others that dont have family members living with depression. People that have already been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder may have worse symptoms in the colder months. Surprisingly, younger adults more commonly experience symptoms of SAD than older adults.
Some other common denominators that researchers have found in people diagnosed with SAD is that they tend to have more melatonin in their bodies, which is the hormone that regulates your sleep. The melatonin increases with the shorter days of daylight, which throws off your natural circadian rhythms, making you feel listless and tired.
When Should I Call My Doctor
If you feel depressed, fatigued, and cranky the same time each year, and these feelings seem to be seasonal in nature, you may have a form of SAD. Talk openly with your doctor about your feelings. Follow their recommendations for lifestyle changes and treatment.
If your doctor recommends light therapy, ask if the practice provides light boxes for patients with SAD. You can also rent or purchase a light box, but they’re expensive, and health insurance companies don’t usually cover them.
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Can Light Therapy Help With Sad
Some people find light therapy helps them, but we still dont have enough evidence to say whether it works. Light therapy involves sitting in front of a special light for 30 minutes every morning to make up for lower light levels in winter.
Its worth trying light therapy because we dont normally see any harmful effects from it, says Gauffin. Its usually safe unless you have an eye condition or take medicine that makes you sensitive to light.
Other Tips For Dealing With Seasonal Depression
- Make sure to stay in contact with friends and family to avoid isolating yourself. Even if you feel depressed, making time for loved ones can help ease symptoms. You certainly need a support system when you feel down.
- Try to spend time outdoors during daylight hours. Even if its cold outside, youll feel a bit better getting some sun on your skin and spending time in nature.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Its okay to eat treats in moderation, but on a daily basis, try to eat as much fresh food as you can. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
- Drink plenty of water. In the wintertime, its easy to get dehydrated because our thirst signals arent as strong. However, make sure to hydrate even when you dont feel particularly thirsty. Inadequate water intake can worsen depression.
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Treat Your Seasonal Depression This Winter
Were currently in the thick of winter, and many of us are experiencing SAD symptoms. If youve been wondering, what is seasonal depression? we hope this article provided insight and helpful information.
If youre looking for personal healthcare focused on your physical, mental, and social health, Five Journeys provides a variety of services and treatments. Its not too late to get help this winter and manage your seasonal depression for years to come.
Symptoms Of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Clinical depression shows up as an underlying state of being. While a recurrent pattern characterizes seasonal depression. It shows up for roughly four to five months of the year.
The symptoms include those found in major depression. Some symptoms are more commonly found in winter seasonal depression. Others only show up in summer-pattern depression10.
- The common symptoms of seasonal depression include:
- Feeling sad and depressed for most of the day, every day
- No interest in activities that used to bring joy or enthusiasm
- Changes in weight or appetite
- Sleep cycle disrupt, either too much or too lite
- Feeling irritable, agitated, or “on edge”
- Feeling worthless, apathetic, or hopeless
- Low energy or sluggish
- Thoughts of self-harm
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Persistent Feelings Of Sadness And Depression
Like regular depression, people with seasonal affective disorder experience frequent feelings of sadness and depression due to a dramatic decrease in sunlight. People with a family history of other types of depression are more likely to develop SAD, as well as those already diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder.
Final Thoughts On These Signs Of Seasonal Depression
We hope you have learned a thing or two about seasonal depression and how to treat it. If you feel that you may have seasonal affective disorder, please talk to a licensed professional. Discuss your symptoms so that he/she can help you with treatment options. Never feel ashamed to get help for a mental disorder. Its not your fault that you have a chemical imbalance in your brain. Its important to get help for any mental disorder, because you can begin your path to recovery.
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Risk Factors For Seasonal Depression
This form of depression is more common in younger people and those who live in colder climates. Summer-pattern depression is more common for those who live closer to the equator. Women are also more likely to be diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder than men3.
Research suggests a higher risk for seasonal depression in people who also have a mood disorder diagnosis. This includes major depression or bipolar disorder.
A family history that includes seasonal depression or other forms of depression can increase the risk of developing Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Evidence shows low levels of vitamin D increase the risk for seasonal affective disorder. Vitamin D is produced in the body when it is exposed to UV rays and can increase serotonin levels7. Serotonin influences energy levels and the experience of happiness.
Low vitamin D levels are common in North America with the wide use of sunscreen. Even the lowest SPF levels block vitamin D production. Boosting vitamin D production by supplementing through diet may help when using sunscreen.
How Does Light Therapy Work
To use light therapy or phototherapy, you purchase a special lamp. It has white fluorescent light tubes covered with a plastic screen to block ultraviolet rays. The light is about 20 times brighter than regular indoor light. The intensity of light emitted should be 10,000 lux.
To use phototherapy, dont look directly into the light. Your exposure to the light should be indirect. Place the lamp about two to three feet away while you read, eat, work or do other activities.
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Alcohol Tobacco And Other Drugs
The misuse and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and prescription medications affect the health and well-being of millions of Americans. SAMHSAs 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that approximately 19.3 million people aged 18 or older had a substance use disorder in the past year.
Treatment For Seasonal Affective Disorder: Light Therapy
The mainstay of winter SAD treatment is light therapy, otherwise known as phototherapy. Light therapy aims to replace the missing daylight of winter by exposing you to bright light that mimics natural outdoor light. Daily exposure can suppress the brains secretion of melatonin to help you feel more awake and alert, less drowsy and melancholy.
Light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85 percent of SAD cases. However, the timing and length of exposure needed can vary according to your symptoms and circadian rhythm, so youll need guidance from your doctor or mental health professional to find the right dosage. Your doctor or therapist can also help you choose a light therapy product thats both effective and safe.
Light therapy has to be continued daily throughout the winter months to be effective. Starting light therapy before the onset of symptoms in the fall may even help prevent seasonal affective disorder.
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Should You Seek Depression Rehab In Florida
Although you cannot stop the changing of the seasons, there are simple things you can do daily to find relief from symptoms of seasonal depression. Take time to spend outside each day, especially when it is sunny. The exposure will help boost your Vitamin D levels, and the fresh air is invigorating. Exercise increases endorphins, which are mood-boosting hormones, so stay active. A healthy diet reduces inflammation, which is associated with depression, so avoid highly processed foods. Stay connected to friends and family. Having a solid social network is an excellent defense against depression. Seasonal depression responds well to treatment, which can include light therapy, medication, and psychotherapy. You can purchase light therapy lamps almost everywhere, but you should consult your healthcare provider before using one.
While there are many things you can do to alleviate symptoms of SAD, there are significant benefits to seeking help from professional depression treatment programs. It is vital to seek help if your symptoms worsen or you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide. At Harmony Hills, we offer solutions such as:
- Medication management