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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Nack

Seasonal Depression: What is it and why does it happen?

When it begins getting colder, and there is less light in the day, some people experience a change in their mood. This has been described with many names, some of which are seasonal depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, winter blues, and seasonal depression. While not everyone who experiences it may fit into a criteria associated with some kind of diagnosis, it is a phenomenon that many are familiar with. It has been classified as experiencing inattentiveness, hopelessness, depression, social withdrawal, and fatigue. These must be occurring only during a particular time of year and happen for two consecutive years. After that season is over there is a pattern of recovery in mood (Munir & Abbas, 2022). From the DSM standpoint this would be Major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern (American Psychiatric Association, 2022). From research that has been done there is actually a correlation with sunlight deficiency and hormonal changes, mainly serotonin and melatonin. A decrease in sunlight exposure tends to lead to an increase in melatonin. Sunlight also provides the body with vitamin D, which is important for the synthesis of serotonin. With less sunlight there is less serotonin. Since hormones are a part of mood regulation and personality, it makes sense that those may change depending on the amount of sunlight available, given that sunlight has an impact on hormones (Munir & Abbas, 2022).

Some ways that this is treated is through light therapy, exercise, hormonal therapy, antidepressants, changes in diet, meditation, sleep hygiene, and vitamin D (Munir & Abbas, 2022). Talk therapy may also be helpful in building healthy behaviors to decrease symptomatology, decrease stress, change negative beliefs or self-talk, and finding other ways to cope with the depressive symptoms. Light therapy is a common first treatment given to people suffering with seasonal depression. People sit near a light box that mimics natural light for a set amount of time each day. These tend to be effective in treating symptoms beginning between a few days or weeks into the sessions ("Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic," 2021). In all, there are many different directions one can take in tackling their winter blues, whether they are clinically diagnosable or not.


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