Do you ever start to feel down as the year goes on? When the summer ends does it feel like someone put extra weights on your chest? As the weather gets colder, your mood changes and you start to sleep more and have less energy. You can no longer stay focused at work and you lose all desire to leave the house. If this sounds even a little bit like you, then chances are you’re suffering from seasonal depression.
What is Seasonal Depression?
The medical term for seasonal depression is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and it is recognized as a mood disorder that happens at the same time every year. SAD typically begins in the fall and lasts through the winter; however, there are rare instances where an individual can develop SAD in the spring or summer. Almost 10 million Americans are affected by SAD every year, with the highest numbers being among young adults and women. Majority of people who experience SAD live in cloudy regions or in higher altitudes.
What causes SAD?
Unfortunately, there is no definite cause for SAD, but there are things that can contribute to a person developing symptoms of the disorder. People who already suffer from depression or other mood disorders are more likely to develop SAD. In addition, abnormally low serotonin levels (the chemical in your body responsible for regulating well-being and happiness) can contribute to the development of SAD. The availability of sunlight during the winter is another huge factor. The theory is that less exposure to sunlight negatively affects your biological clock, throwing off your mood, hormones and sleep pattern.
What are the signs of SAD?
The signs of seasonal depression can vary for each individual, but typical symptoms can include:
- Low energy
- Feeling depressed
- Weight loss/gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Suicidal thoughts
How to overcome SAD
The easiest way to overcome SAD is by spending more time outside. Exposure to sunlight can help to regulate your biological clock and serotonin levels, allowing you to feel happier and therefore decrease your symptoms. Light therapy is another option if you’re located in an area where natural sunlight is almost impossible to get during the winter. The light therapy method consists of using a lightbox to introduce artificial sunlight into your home for a designated amount of time during the day. Light therapy boxes can be purchased online for less than $30. You should always talk with your doctor to see if medication or other alternatives are more suited for your SAD, but small things such as exercise and sunlight can make a huge difference and you don’t need a prescription.