Colder weather, less daylight, and seasonal changes can affect your overall mood, leading to depression or seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, which affects about 11 million people across the United States each year.
Seasonal affective disorder can begin with the first signs of fall or winter, including cooler temperatures and less daylight as we approach the shortest days of the year.
WebMD Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Whyte said rainy spells across the Northeast may have left people feeling seasonal blues earlier this year.
“With this kind of rain in some areas of the country, I’m not surprised that people are starting to feel more depressed and depressed than, you know, in a few weeks or months,” Whyte said. .
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Doctors are still trying to understand all the factors of SAD, including why some people get it and others don’t. Whyte said the cause could be hormonal imbalance. When people are exposed to less sunlight, it affects melatonin levels and thus disrupts sleep, causing other symptoms of seasonal depression.
“If you have seasonal affective disorder. Your melatonin, serotonin, cortisol levels are out of balance and that changes your mood, making you feel tired, depressed, sad, lose weight, lost interest in everything,” Whyte said. “It’s not in your head. There’s a reason why, physiologically and in your brain, why you feel these emotions.”
What are the symptoms of seasonal depression?
It’s important to know that the “winter blues” can be a diagnosable seasonal affective disorder, and knowing the signs can help combat negative feelings.
Loss of appetite, weight loss, overall mood changes, feelings of sadness and lack of sleep are all signs of seasonal depression. To find out if what you’re experiencing is SAD, there are online self-assessments that can help identify it.
According to D’AMORE Health, about 5% of the population, or 1 in 50 people, suffers from seasonal depression.
What are the treatments for SAD?
Whyte says a healthy diet and exercise can go a long way in treating seasonal depression.
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“Physical activity always releases endorphins that make us feel good,” says Whyte. So that will first of all help your mood.”
Other treatments include using a light box to recreate the sunlight that produces the vitamin D your body needs.
“It’s not just about walking into a room and turning on the lights,” Whyte said.
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According to the Yale School of Medicine, exposure to bright light at 10,000 lux seven days a week for 30 minutes before 8 a.m. can help improve SAD symptoms for most patients.
Getting natural sunlight when possible is another treatment. You can sit by a sunny window or outside for a while.
“The important thing is sunlight, which will help settle your mood,” says Whyte.
Meanwhile, others will need professional help beyond the treatment options listed above. A psychologist or psychiatrist will help determine a treatment plan and any possible medications.
Too much sunlight can also cause seasonal depression
Seasonal affective disorder also occurs due to overexposure to the sun. Starting in spring, nearly 2 million people suffer the summer blues when daylight lasts 10 to 12 hours. Most of these patients are closer to the equator, and symptoms can include feeling agitated and anxious, loss of appetite, weight loss, difficulty sleeping, and violent or explosive behavior.
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