Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) effects many people each year. While certain measures can usually be taken to ease the depression symptoms, some people experience SAD much more severely than others. Severity will depend on environmental factors, lifestyle and the current state of their personal mental and emotional health.
On average (as seen in the U.S.) 5% of adults have been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder. On top of that, around 20% of people report having some form of mild seasonal depression or the “winter blues”. SAD is slightly more common for people in their twenties above any other age group.
Depression in general has been reported to effect women much more often than men. This could be due to how men and women tend to interpret and process things differently. It may also be that in the past, women have been known to discuss their mental health issues more openly than men.
As mental and emotional health awareness continues to come to the surface of society, it will be interesting to see if the statistics around certain mental illnesses shift due to more accurate data.
How to Ease and Avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder?
The best way to ease seasonal affective depression is to seek professional counseling. You can also talk to your doctor about an appropriate medication. Check out this article on the 11 Benefits of Mental Health Counselors.
Other great ways to cope with SAD include implementing a healthy diet, exercising regularly, engaging in uplifting activities and establishing a fulfilling, relaxing hobby.
Don’t underestimate the power of simply eating well (nutritious, clean, whole foods) and regular exercise when it comes to depression. A healthy mind starts with a healthy, vibrant body. Physical energy can be life-changing.
Another great tool to help cope with seasonal affective depression (and anxiety that may be seen with it) are weighted blankets or various weighted accessories.
How do You Cure Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal affective depression is one of the most treatable of depression disorders. People often know that they have it without being diagnosed. We all have those days where we long for the warm days of summer (or maybe the opposite!). However, persistent feelings of sadness due should not be ignored.
There are many things you can do to help speed up treatment and achieve a better state of mind (stated above). Being proactive about one’s mental and emotional health will significantly supplement the professional treatment/medication they might receive.
The top treatment options for seasonal affective disorder are…
- Professional Psychotherapy (talk therapy). Try online therapy for a more convenient option!
- Medication. Antidepressants might be a good option depending on your particular circumstance. Talk to your doctor if you think this is a good option for you.
In many cases of SAD, simply taking proactive measures can significantly help ease your symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of Seasonal Depression?
Fluctuations in Weight
During winter SAD, weight gain is typical seen while weight loss is typically seen with summer SAD. Staying inside and being less active in the winter is common for many, especially those suffering with seasonal depression.
Aside from cold, snowy weather, being inactive and adapting an unhealthy lifestyle will contribute to the onset of depression. The best thing you can do to get ahead of your SAD is to stay active and eat well during those months. Join a fitness group/class, plan a getaway and/or invest in a home gym to keep your mood up and your body healthy!
Personally, I just joined a running group this winter and it’s made a huge difference in the seasonal depression that I sometimes experience. Since we run outside, it breaks my belief that I cannot enjoy being outside and that I’m forced to stay inside. Also, I’m cold all the time during winter so it’s amazing for me to come home from a long distance run at 8:30a.m. on a Saturday when it’s 30 degrees outside and be sweating and warm inside and out. It makes me feel like I’m not a victim to the weather, plus I keep the winter weight off and feel amazing. Improved mindset, improved mood and improved overall health!
Thoughts of Suicide
Someone with depression (any form) may experience thoughts of suicide when they’re not actually suicidal. It’s so important to understand what is happening when suicidal thoughts occur. Some people get them and want nothing to do with them. Others consider what it would be like to end their lives in an attempt to not be in pain anymore.
In some cases episodes of anxiety and panic attacks will be experienced along with seasonal depression. Being proactive about treating anxiety can significantly help reduce depression and anxiety symptoms.
Whether someone is getting their “8 hours” every night or not, fatigue is usually an unavoidable symptom of depression. Seasonal depression often hits hard and will throw the individual experiencing it for a loop even though they might be expecting it. When someone is so depressed that they feel physically and emotionally drained, it’s a difficult situation to climb out of.
Personally, I’ve experienced this in the past. Forcing myself to go for a short walk helps a little in the moment. Improving my daily habits is ultimately what has eliminated this symptom for me completely.
Often, some people are not aware that they’re depressed. They only know they’re sad or in a “funk”, and extreme discomfort will cause them to lash out or become irritable. In this case, they will be frustrated with everything and everyone. They have a severe amount of underlying pain and without acknowledging it and seeking treatment, irritability will persist.