Continuing on with our Halloween theme, today we're going to address "seasonal depression". Here are a few things you might not know about the winter blues
1. What is seasonal depression?
Formerly recognized as a diagnosis in and of itself, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is now considered a sub-disorder under depressive disorders. This means that a person who fits the criteria for the sub-disorder experience depressive symptoms only during the winter months and does not experience the symptoms during the spring and the summer.
Most people who struggle with seasonal depressive symptoms have an onset during the winter months, but there are individuals who have a summer-onset, although it is much more rare than a winter onset.
2. What are the symptoms of seasonal depression?
The symptoms that people with seasonal depression experience are the same symptoms that a person with "regular" depression experience, but they only experience these symptoms during the onset of the winter (or sometimes, summer) months:
Loss of pleasure in daily activities
Fluctuation in weight and appetite
Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
Inability to concentrate
It's important to note that, in order to be diagnosed with a depressive disorder, these symptoms have to occur almost every day and cause significant distress in your daily functioning.
3. Options for treatment
There is help for individuals who struggle with seasonal depression. A counselor can utilize several different techniques and skills to aid you in your recovery. I typically utilize cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to examine behavioral cycles and identify points to interrupt the cycles. I also utilize mindfulness techniques to encourage my clients to be present and aware in the moment and to try to shift their perspective to look for what's positive.
In conjunction with therapy, some individuals opt to receive light therapy. In light therapy, you sit a few feet away from a special light therapy box so that you're exposed to a bright light. Many researchers believe that the lack of natural sunlight during the winter months is a contributing factor to the onset of depressive symptoms. Research on light therapy is limited, so be sure to consult with a therapist and a medical doctor before purchasing a light therapy box to make sure you're buying one that is safe and effective.