Everything You Need to Know About Seasonal Depression

Causes, Risk Factors, and Treatments for Seasonal Depression from a Baltimore Therapist

So many people are familiar with the ‘winter blues’ in one way or another. Many of us consider it extremely normal that depression creeps in during cold and grey winter months, ignoring the fact that the winter blues is actually a serious medical condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression. This undermining of the seriousness of SAD is problematic, which is why a Baltimore therapist is here to break down everything you need to know about Seasonal Affective Disorder. From causes and risk factors to treatment options, we’re here to share everything you need to identify and seek help for this common disorder.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? A Baltimore Therapist Breaks it Down

Seasonal Effects on Mood, Energy, Appetite, and More

Baltimore Depression Therapist

Commonly known as seasonal depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder is identified as changes in mood that occur during seasonal changes. Frequently these changes begin in the fall and last through the winter with symptoms increasing over time through the season. SAD (a non-comically appropriate acronym) often leaves people feeling moody and possessing low energy during the colder months. Additional symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Because of the severity of these symptoms, it’s extremely important not to undermine Seasonal Affective Disorder for the winter blues. 

Additionally, there’s a major misconception about SAD regarding its timeliness. Many people believe that seasonal depression only occurs during the fall and winter months. While less common, season depression can occur during spring and summer months but often presents differently. Fall and winter seasonal depression, according to a Baltimore therapist, often presents in the form of oversleeping, weight gain, low energy, and a shift in appetite to crave more high-carbohydrate foods. Spring and summer seasonal depression, however, often presents in a contradictory manner. Symptoms include insomnia, poor appetite, weight loss, and feeling agitated or anxious.

What are the Risk Factors for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

A Baltimore Therapist Breaks Down the Biggest Determinants of SAD

Seasonal Effective Disorder Baltimore

Season Affective Disorder in its most mild cases is extremely common and affects so many people, which is why it is often difficult for a Baltimore therapist to detect and treat. SAD is caused by a number of factors, including the following changes that occur during the seasons:

  • Circadian Rhythms: The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body's internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin: A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin: The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body's level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

These changes can happen to nearly anyone, but there are also a number of risk factors that increase your likelihood of experiencing seasonal depression. For instance, a family history of SAD - or another form of depression - is a major determinant of your likelihood of experiencing seasonal depression. Additionally, having a pre-existing condition like manic depression, bipolar, or borderline personality disorders can worsen the symptoms of seasonal depression.

More surprisingly, however, is the effect that location can have on your likelihood of having SAD. Living far from the equator where there is decreased sunlight in the winter and longer days in the summer can lead to SAD. Additionally, living in cities with more cloud cover and rainy days often increases your likelihood of experiencing symptoms of SAD.

How Does a Baltimore Therapist Treat SAD?

Treating & Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Baltimore Depression Treatment

There are a number of different treatment options for Seasonal Affective Disorder. The first and most effective treatment is called phototherapy or light therapy, which involves exposing the sufferer to fluorescent light in order to increase the productivity of serotonin in the brain. After about 30 minutes of phototherapy for 1-2 weeks, sufferers will often begin to feel better. This treatment is not FDA approved for treating SAD, but is known to provide benefits to a number of people.

Additionally, many people choose medication for the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Practitioners primarily prescribe SSRIs for this type of mental health issue, but a class of drugs called bupropion is also approved for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder. This medication is frequently combined with counseling with a Baltimore therapist that teaches the sufferer behavioral skills, skills for noticing the appearance of negative thoughts, and stress management skills.

Think it may be time to get your Seasonal Affective Disorder under control? Get in touch with the team at Psych Associates of Maryland today to get started.


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