Seasonal depression is, simply, a depression that follows a seasonal pattern.
It is also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
Though commonly associated with the darker winter months, seasonal depression can sometimes appear in the bright and sunny spring and summer months.
How The Seasons Affect Your Mood
Although SAD is not fully understood, it seems to be directly connected to the shifting length of daylight that occurs as the season’s change and its effect on our circadian rhythm, which is our internal body clock. Our internal body clock tells us when to sleep, eat and be active.
In the “winter blues” type of seasonal depression, the shorter days and longer nights of fall and winter can lead to reduced exposure to sunlight, which in turn can lead to decreased activity levels, increased sleepiness, and an overall disruption of your daily routines.
But when the winter resolves into spring and the days get longer and brighter, someone who has been in a good mood all winter might then experience excess wakefulness, excess restlessness, excess agitation, and insomnia. These conditions can increase stress and anxiety and reduce the quality of sleep, exacerbating the symptoms of depression.
While the blooming flowers and greening spring landscape may be lovely to look at, the increased pollen count might aggravate allergies, which has also been linked to worsened mood and seasonal depression.
Signs and Symptoms of Seasonal Depression
While any form of depression may look slightly different from person to person, some common patterns experienced in the spring and summer type:
- persistent sadness, worthlessness, and hopelessness
- loss of interest or pleasure in your favorite activities
- changes in appetite and eating routines
- changes in sleep and wakefulness, including fatigue or restlessness
- easily angered, irritated, or agitated
- difficulty thinking, concentrating, remembering, making decisions, or motivating yourself
- thoughts of death, dying, or suicide
If you notice these issues in yourself, it is probably time to seek professional help, especially if these emotional and behavioral changes interfere with your responsibilities or relationships.
Treatment strategies for seasonal affective disorder typically involve some combination of light-exposure therapy, talk therapy, medication, and exercise.
Because depression can make it challenging to get motivated and make an effort to get better, look for little opportunities that make a big difference.
Open up your window shades or go outside to take in the sunlight, particularly early in the day.
Avoid bright lights in the evening and nighttime and limit your exposure to screens, as these can interfere with your sleep quality.
Exercise doesn’t need to be a strenuous workout at the gym or running long distances. Even a gentle walk in the morning can go a long way toward naturally boosting your mood and self-confidence.
Practice meditation, prayer, or even deep and mindful breathing to ease your stresses and uplift your mood.
From family and friends to a doctor or therapist, connecting with loving and supportive people can make a big difference.
Mental health professionals may prescribe helpful medications and design a care plan specifically for you.