The Facts About Seasonal Depression
Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is often unfairly perceived as just “feeling down” during the the times of year when temperatures drop and the days grow shorter. But in reality, it is a subset of clinical depression that has been long been observed by mental health professionals, making its first appearance in scientific literature in the mid-19th century. Since officially being classified as a disorder in the early 1980’s, people have started paying more attention to this condition.
What Is Seasonal Depression?
As the name of the condition implies, seasonal depression is a cyclical condition that flares up at certain point of the year. The common timeframe for experiencing symptoms is late autumn through the end of winter, but summer-onset seasonal depression does exist in rare cases. Symptoms are varied, and they can include the following:
- Prevailing feelings of sadness throughout the day
- Losing interest in daily actions, even your favorite activities
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite or weight fluctuations
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts
Who Does Seasonal Depression Affect?
Here in the United States, seasonal depression is an issue for 4 to 6 percent of people. Some people are more prone than others, however. One of the main factors is geographic location. As you go further from the equator (and therefore deeper into harsh winters), the potential to develop seasonal depression demonstrably increases. Age and gender are also factors that contribute to this condition. The onset of seasonal depression usually occurs in a person’s 20s, and four out of five sufferers are women.
The Power of Light
In the absence of natural outdoor light, one of the usual treatments for those suffering from seasonal depression is light therapy, also known as phototherapy. When used in combination with counseling and/or prescription medication, a light therapy box can help to restore circadian rhythm and improve your general mood. If advised to get one, make sure you select a light therapy box that filters out as much UV light as possible. It was once thought that UV lamps were necessary to mimic the sun’s natural rays, but ultraviolet light can do serious damage to the eyes. In addition to UV filtration, also consider the size, style, and brightness you need. If you need more resources, Verywell Mind has compiled a list of the best lamps of the year.
You Don’t Have to Go Through This Alone
Warriors Heart is a mental health and recovery resource for active military personnel, veterans, and first responders. If seasonal depression is making life difficult for you, please reach out to us without delay. This is a real condition – far more than just routine “low points” and loss of interest. At Warriors Heart, you’ll have trained mental health professionals on your side, ready to help you get through your toughest times.