Seasonal shifts and changes can be challenging for some people, especially those who struggle with Depression. For some people, they notice a seasonal change in their mood. Historically, this was called Seasonal Affective Disorder. In the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) (2013), Seasonal Affective Disorder changed to Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern. The underlying symptoms and issues are the same. Typically, it signifies experiencing more depressive symptoms moving from Fall into Winter, although for a minority it can be experiencing increased anxiety from Spring into Summer.
Symptoms will be most noticeable in the fall and winter and may include:
• sleeping too much
• difficulty waking up in the morning
• decreased energy
• eating too much (especially carbohydrates)
• feelings of hopelessness
• withdrawing from social activities
• and decreased sex drive.
At The Catalyst Center, we understand that Depression and seasonal changes in Depression can be challenging. For example, difficulty waking up in the morning can be especially difficult for parents of small children, particularly if children are still night-waking. Recommended treatment is quite similar to treatment for Depression, including:
• Anti-Depressant Medication
Seasonal patterns of Depression are believed to be caused by changes in our exposure to light. For example, in the winter time we experience less light than we do in the summer time. This has lead to treatment recommendations of:
• Maintaining a regular sleeping and eating schedule
• More time outside
• Bright light therapy
• Dawn simulation lights
In my experience as a therapist, I have witnessed significant change in those pursuing bright light therapy. Prices for light boxes have decreased in the past few years, and light boxes have gotten smaller. I typically recommend people search online for a full-spectrum light that is specifically for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder. Start out using it for 15 minutes in the morning, working up to 30 minutes per morning during the fall and winter months. Some people use them for an additional 10 minutes in the afternoon when they experience a slump in energy.
Making an effort to be active in the winter months is important and easier in Colorado than other places due to our sunshiny days. Walking is a great option. Or try ice skating, snow shoeing, skiing, or snowboarding.