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How to Combat Seasonal Depression

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Young woman with seasonal depression looking out the window on a rainy day
Published: October 18, 2022
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Major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern (MDD-SP), previously known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs during certain seasons. Most people with MDD-SP experience it during the winter months, but some may have symptoms during the summer.

MDD-SP can make you feel like you’re in a dark hole with no way out. You may feel hopeless and helpless like there’s nothing you can do to make yourself feel better. But there are things you can do to combat seasonal depression and improve your outlook on life. In this article, we will explore what causes MDD-SP, why it happens, and how to make it better.

 

Symptoms of MDD-SP

MDD-SP affects different people in different ways, but there are some common symptoms that many people experience. These include:

  • Feeling low energy or fatigue
  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Withdrawing from friends and activities you normally enjoy
  • Sleeping more than usual or having difficulty sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in appetite, weight, or both
  • Feeling irritable or agitated
  • Having thoughts of death or suicide

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor. They can help you determine if your symptoms are due to MDD-SP or another condition.

 

What Causes MDD-SP?

There are a few different theories on what causes seasonal depression, but the most likely explanation is that it’s caused by a combination of environmental and biological factors.

Environmental factors that may contribute to major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern include changes in weather, daylight hours, and social activities. When there is less daylight, people with MDD-SP tend to have less energy and feel more down. Additionally, when there are fewer social activities happening during the winter months, people may feel more isolated and lonely.

Some of the biological factors that may contribute to MDD-SP include changes in serotonin levels and melatonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, and melatonin is a hormone that helps control the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. When there are changes in these levels, it may lead to symptoms of depression.

 

How Common is Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern?

Seasonal depression is a fairly common condition, affecting about 4-6% of the population according to the AFP Journal, although many more people may have a milder form of the condition known as the winter blues.

MDD-SP is reported more often in women than in men and usually affects people younger than 55. If you have a family history of depression or have received a depression diagnosis yourself, you may be more likely to experience major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern.

 

How to Fight Seasonal Patterns

Now that we know what causes major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern and how common it actually is, let’s explore how to combat it:

Light Therapy

Light therapy involves exposure to a special type of light called bright light therapy. This light helps regulate the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and can improve mood symptoms.

For light therapy to be effective, it needs to be used every day for a set amount of time. The amount of time you need to use it will vary depending on your individual situation. Some people may only need to use it for a few weeks, while others may need to use it for several months.

Exercise

Even though it might be difficult to practice this one during hot or cold weather, try to get outside for at least 30 minutes a day. Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting properties. Taking a brisk walk in the sun can also help improve your mood by providing you with vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones and has been linked to a lower risk of depression.

Social Activities

Social activities can help fight seasonal depression because they provide people with an opportunity to connect with others. When people are feeling down, it can be helpful to talk to someone who understands what you’re going through. Additionally, participating in social activities can help improve mood by providing a distraction from negative thoughts.

Some social activities that may help fight seasonal depression include:

  • Going to a support group
  • Participating in a book club
  • Volunteering
  • Attending religious services or general community events

Diet and supplements

A healthy diet and supplements can help improve mood symptoms by providing the body with essential nutrients. Some nutrients that may be beneficial for people with major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and folate.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fatty acid that is found in seafood, nuts, and seeds. They have been shown to be effective in improving mood symptoms. Vitamin D is a nutrient that is essential for healthy bones and has been linked to a lower risk of depression. Folate is a water-soluble vitamin that is found in leafy green vegetables, legumes, and nuts. It has been shown to be helpful in reducing the symptoms of depression.

 

Avoid Alcohol

When people are feeling down, they may be tempted to drink alcohol in order to try to feel better. However, alcohol can actually have the opposite effect and make people feel worse.

Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it can slow down the activity of the brain. When people drink alcohol, it can interfere with the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is important for mood. Additionally, alcohol can disrupt sleep, which is already a problem for people with MDD-SP.

 

Break from Your Routine

People with seasonal depression may find that breaking from their normal routines can help to lessen the effects of the condition. This could include taking a vacation, changing your work hours, or taking a break from any stressful obligations.

Sticking to a routine can be difficult when someone is feeling down, so taking a break can help to provide some relief. It can also be helpful to try out some new activities or hobbies that can help to distract from negative thoughts.

 

Talk to a Psychiatrist

If major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern is impacting your quality of life, it is important to reach out for help. BestMind Behavioral Health offers affordable, best-in-class behavioral and mental health treatment. Our providers offer medication and alternative therapies to treat seasonal depression, as well as anxiety, bipolar disorder, and treatment-resistant depression.

Every person who comes to BestMind has their own unique needs and special circumstances that bring them to us. That’s why we’ve created a system that allows for total flexibility. We offer both in-person and telehealth appointments. BestMind accepts a variety of insurances, so you can get the care you need at an affordable cost. We work with licensed psychiatrists, certified physician assistants, and advanced registered nurse practitioners to deliver the best care for your state of mind.

If you are struggling with seasonal depression, please reach out to us at BestMind Behavioral Health. You don’t have to go through this alone – we can help!