Seasonal Affective Depression - What You Can Do

With the weather cooling, our mood might change. Why does this happen, and how can we prevent it?

With the weather cooling, our mood might change. Why does this happen, and how can we prevent it?
Anace Said

What is seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is a change in mood for the worse when a certain season arrives. For most people with seasonal affective disorder, the mood worsens with arrival of the colder months, though it can be the opposite for some. Those with a baseline level of depression may worsen, while others with no history of depression may become depressed during the colder months. The condition is actually very common; roughly 10 million Americans suffer from it.

What causes seasonal affective disorder?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, nobody knows exactly why seasonal affective disorder occurs. Nonetheless, the leading theories have to do with less sunlight, which throws off our biological clock and causes more melatonin (the hormone that makes us sleepy) to be produced. Furthermore, exposure to the sun stimulates vitamin D production. When we get less sunlight during the winter, our vitamin D production can dip, which in turn can affect our levels of serotonin, a hormone that plays a role in our mood.

What can be done about seasonal affective disorder?

Treatments for seasonal affective disorder include phototherapy, psychotherapy, exercise, vitamin D supplementation, and medication for more severe cases. Phototherapy can be achieved with specialized lamps that emit light at wavelengths similar to those of the sun, helping to replace some of the brain stimulation we lack in the winter months. Spending time outdoors, especially during the light hours, can also help replenish some of the sunlight we miss during the winter months.

What if none of that works, and I’m depressed year-round?

For severe, treatment-resistant depression that occurs year-round, esketamine may be the right choice. At Park Avenue Medical in Wallingford CT, we offer Spravato® (nasal esketamine) to help those with treatment-resistant depression. Note that this treatment is only suitable for more severe depression, and your provider will determine if this treatment is right for you.

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