How to Manage Seasonal Depression

22 Dec by HPA/LiveWell Clinical Psychology

Seasonal depression affects approximately 5% of people in the United States. Unfortunately, many do not know how to cope with the resulting symptoms, which can be quite challenging.

What is seasonal depression?

Seasonal depression, also referred to as seasonal affective disorder, is a kind of depression that is triggered by the change of seasons. For most people, symptoms of seasonal depression often begin in the late fall or early winter.

Symptoms of seasonal depression

Although the signs of seasonal depression can vary from person to person, there are some common symptoms that tend to present in most people with seasonal affective disorder:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Increased irritability
  • Loss of interest

 How to manage seasonal depression

Experiencing seasonal depression is unfortunate. Yet, with an understanding of how to manage seasonal depression, individuals can learn how to control the difficult side effects and symptoms. There are three common treatments used for individuals with seasonal depression including:

  • Light therapy – starting in the 1980s, light therapy has been a foundational approach to treating seasonal depression. Individuals typically get much less sunshine in the winter months (often triggering seasonal depression). Thus, using artificial light for daily exposure can assist as a replacement. There are various seasonal affective disorder treatment lights on the market.
  • Behavioral therapy – cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems and changing unhelpful patterns in cognitions (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes), behaviors, and emotional regulation. It was originally designed to treat depression, and is now used for a number of mental health conditions.
  • Medication – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are typically used in the treatment of season depression. While SSRIs can be effective in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder, it is important to discuss the potential side effects prior to starting a medication regimen.

Some prefer to manage their seasonal depression without therapeutic intervention or medication, opting for a more natural approach.  Some natural remedies for seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Exercise – research shows a regular exercise regimen is helpful when it comes to any type of depression. Implementing a consistent exercise program can be a very useful approach to manage seasonal depression.
  • Supplements – vitamin D is amongst the most popular when it comes to treating seasonal depression with supplements. Many people are deficient in vitamin D, (also referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”), and research shows a strong connection between depression and low levels of vitamin D in the body.
  • Diet – a large part of learning how to manage seasonal depression starts with diet. Choosing foods that contain tryptophan, such as leafy greens, seafood, and poultry, can provide a boost in mood and energy.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, contact HPA/LiveWell in Albany, New York at 518-218-1118 to find out more about our services and how to treat seasonal depression.