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Seasonal Depression

Houston, TX
Depression

As seasons transition and winter arrives, people often experience joy from spending time with friends or family during the holidays. However, many may feel lonelier, stressed, or even depressed. While there are several clinical reasons for sadness and depression, these winter blues may be attributed to a specific type of depression: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Approximately 30 percent of people may experience mild to severe SAD, but it is more prevalent in northern states such as Washington than in southern states such as Florida.


Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs due to winter’s disruption of the human body’s circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms cause physical, mental, and behavioral changes through neurotransmitters depending on the amount of light exposed by the body. For instance, the more sunlight outside, the more alert the body becomes due to increased serotonin. Winter causes regions to have shorter days and less sunlight, thus causing the brain to produce less. Without enough serotonin, the human body can not elevate mood, and sleep patterns can be disturbed, further causing depression and anxiety. For many patients, SAD starts in autumn and lasts until spring starts.


Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder differ from mild stress as they tend to be more regular and long-lasting. They include changes in appetite or weight, losing interest in everyday activities, feeling depressed almost every day, low energy, difficulty concentrating, oversleeping/eating, and social withdrawal from family or friends. However, people can prevent SAD by boosting their physical and mental health during winter. This can be achieved by spending daylight hours outside (for light exposure), exercising regularly, eating healthily, and avoiding alcohol.


However, if a person obtains SAD, there are several treatment options. Light therapy is one of the most common treatments and involves exposing oneself to bright light for a certain amount each day. It helps reset the body’s internal clock and can help reduce symptoms of depression. A doctor may also prescribe antidepressant medications to help manage symptoms. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and spending time outdoors can also help reduce symptoms of SAD.


In conclusion, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression related to seasonal changes and typically occurs during the winter months. While the exact cause is unknown, it is believed that reduced exposure to sunlight plays a role in its development. Fortunately, several treatments available can help manage symptoms, such as light therapy and antidepressant medications, as well as lifestyle changes like exercise and spending time outdoors. It is essential for those who think they may have SAD to seek professional help to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to lead healthy lives.


Sources

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2000/0301/p1531.html

https://comprehensiveprimarycare.com/why-do-i-feel-sad-in-the-winter/

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9293-seasonal-depression


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