A Look into Seasonal Depression

Written by Marla. Posted in Blog

Throughout the year, many may experience a noticeable shift in their attitude or overall demeanor. The most obvious is when we go from warm, relaxing days where care-free time is spent with our family and friends at the beach or lounging by the pool to the frigid, and unforgiving temperatures of winter where we find ourselves bundled up and indoors most of the season.

For myself, I tend to have a more positive and cheerful mood during the warmer months of summer. The sun is out and shining almost every day, and there’s no excuse to spend the majority of our time indoors. It’s always nice to take a dip in the pool or arrange outings with friends and families to barbeques or outdoor concerts along with road trips and camping. Overall, I think there’s more of a variety of activities to partake in during the summer that allow everyone to take a break from their busy work or school schedules and just relax.

Although winter does have its perks being that of the holiday cheer surrounding Christmas and bringing in the New Year with our loved ones, there are also a few downfalls to the chilliest season of them all. The days become shorter, and by the time many of us get off work, the sun is already setting. Not to mention, the dangerous hazards that occur ranging from icy roads to getting our vehicles stuck in the snow making our typically normal and hassle-free commute to work the biggest challenge.

For some, the changing of seasons may not be as simple as just adjusting daily routines and getting involved in activities more fit for the winter. Seasonal depression, a subtype of major depressive disorder that has a negative impact on one’s health during the colder months, can take its toll on many.

During the winter, I do notice a mild change in my energy levels and lack of desire to go outside and face the skin-nipping weather. I’d much rather spend more time in my warm bed snuggled up underneath the blankets reading a good book or nestled in front of the fireplace. However, these subtle changes in attitude are only mild compared to the effects of seasonal depression.

Symptoms of seasonal depression can range from oversleeping and irritability to feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of death or suicide. A lot of these symptoms may be the result of the drastic change in sun exposure that one experiences during the days in winter compared to summer along with not receiving as much Vitamin D from the sun. This may help explain why your energy is a bit more down than usual since the sun can play such a major role in our bodies’ different cycles, and when we aren’t getting enough of its benefits by getting outside and being active, different health problems start to arise.

So, you may be wondering, “How can I combat the effects of season depression?”. Dr. Victoria Kelly, an adult psychiatrist at UTMC suggests getting a start at preventing the oncoming effects of the disorder as early as September. To do so, she recommends maintaining an exercise routine, getting enough Vitamin D by being out in the sun or supplementation with a doctor’s approval along with phototherapy.

Prior to writing this blog, I hadn’t heard of phototherapy and now find the process very interesting. The treatment includes sitting in front of a UV-filtered lightbox for thirty minutes at a time while doing normal, everyday tasks such as checking emails or having a cup of coffee. It’s also important to note that the treatment provokes improvement in three-quarters of its patients.

I believe that during this season, it is very important to make sure you’re taking the necessary steps to take care of yourself. With the drastic change in weather and the amount of sunlight decreasing dramatically, everyone should be devoting a little extra time to making sure that their health is in check even though the snow and icy weather outside is tempting us to just stay in nestled up as opposed to the summer where the warm weather is constantly calling.

Although seasonal depression may have its effects on those who suffer from the disorder, it’s crucial to know that there is always help for those in need. If you suspect you may have seasonal depression, and it’s beginning to take a major toll on your daily life, it’s highly recommended to contact your physician to discuss different options for guidance and treatment.                                

Mercy Health snow winter 2018