Types of Depression: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Most of us experience the winter blues from time to time, but extended periods of seasonal depression should not be ignored. It is a valid mental health concern that requires attention. Otherwise, it will continue to have a drastic impact on the individual’s life.

If you or a loved one have seasonal depression, Peaks Recovery can provide supportive mental health services to effectively manage Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here’s everything you need to know about the condition, from spotting the signs to getting the necessary treatment.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Also known as seasonal depressional, SAD is a type of depression believed to affect up to 3% of the population and an estimated one in four who suffer from bipolar disorder. As the name suggests, it is connected to seasonal changes in the climate, with most individuals noticing the symptoms in the early part of the fall before worsening throughout the winter period.

Seasonal depression shares many attributes with other forms of depression, especially when you compare the symptoms. The central differential, however, is that the indications of SAD only appear during certain times of the year. Most individuals who suffer from seasonal affective disorder find that the issues return at the same moments each year.

The primary trigger for seasonal depression is the brain’s natural response to the reduction in daylight seen during the winter months, which explains why people suffering from this condition do not encounter problems once the summer months return. 

Daylight impacts two significant chemicals. Melatonin promotes increased sleep and is produced at a more incredible speed when there is a lack of daylight. Meanwhile, serotonin is a chemical that is produced when we are exposed to sunlight and subsequently increases our feelings of happiness.

Who Can Be Affected By Seasonal Depression?

Seasonal affective disorder is a mental health issue that can affect virtually anyone. However, several factors can heighten the risk of experiencing seasonal depression. Perhaps most obviously, living in a part of the country where winter daylight is scarce can have a significant impact. The good news is that Colorado gets a reasonable amount of daylight throughout the year.

Demographic factors can also have a huge influence. Women are statistically four times more likely than men to suffer from seasonal depression. Other key issues to consider include;

  • The onset of SAD is most likely to begin between the ages of 18 and 30.
  • The average age of when symptoms begin to show is 23.
  • A family history of SAD may boost the likelihood of experiencing it too.
  • Related mental health conditions like bipolar will significantly increase the odds.

While it is less likely to emerge in later adult life, it can still happen. Moreover, many people are guilty of dismissing SAD for years before finally seeking a diagnosis.

What are the signs and symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

As with other types of depression, seasonal affective disorder can manifest in several ways. When experiencing seasonal depression, some people will show all the signs while others will only have some of the symptoms. Whether you are worried about SAD in yourself or a loved one, the key issues to look out for are;

  • A lack of energy and motivation,
  • Increased self-criticism and sensitivity to criticism from others,
  • Cravings for carbs and sugary food, often leading to weight gain,
  • Sleeping for longer than usual, as well as increased daytime naps,
  • Difficulties with focus and concentration.

While the vast majority of SAD cases are linked to the winter, it is possible to experience seasonal depression in the summer months. In these situations, the symptoms are the inverse of the traditional winter symptoms. Individuals may experience insomnia, weight loss, no appetite, and irritability.

How Is It Diagnosed?

As with other forms of depression, seasonal depression is best diagnosed by an experienced mental health specialist. If you suspect that you (or a loved one) have SAD, it is best to book an appointment to discuss your symptoms. If you have noted that they surfaced during the fall and worsened during the winter, without any other underlying reasons for depression, seasonal affective disorder is the likely diagnosis.

In many cases, especially in relation to mood changes and a loss of motivation, the symptoms may be noted by those around you. Either way, an expert may ask a range of questions about your emotional wellness and the patterns that trigger the depressive thoughts. This could include looking at whether symptoms occurred but were dismissed in previous years, as well as family history of mental health and SAD.

How is Seasonal Depression Treated?

Stats show that up to 60% of individuals who experience SAD never seek help. Seasonal depression can be managed and treated through a range of different approaches, but the most important feature is to actively seek help through a tailored strategy. Light therapy (Phototherapy) is a very common feature that encourages you to recreate daylight settings at home or in other internal settings. Other ideas that may feature in the plan include;

  • Actively spending more time outside during the daytime,
  • Antidepressant medicine that focus on regulating serotonin levels,
  • Increased physical activity, including light exercise like walking.

As with other mental health conditions, talk therapies are also particularly important. From the benefits of getting the issues off of your chest to gaining a deeper understanding of SAD and processing emotional responses or developing coping mechanisms, Peaks Recovery will deliver world-class support. A tailored approach means that you will also understand seasonal depression in the context of personal circumstances and any coexisting issues. 

Get Help With Peaks Recovery

Here at Peaks Recovery, we provide mental health services for clients throughout the State of Colorado. Our tailored services can extend to multidimensional problem-solving and dedicated dual-diagnosis plans when SAD coexists with other conditions. 

Our friendly, discreet, and highly professional services will help you manage SAD or your loved one. Contact us to find out more today.