Just as the leaves change, so do our emotions – but what if yours are taking a turn for the worse? If you find yourself feeling particularly down during the fall months, you may be dealing with autumn depression. While seasonal depression is a common occurrence, it is a mental condition, nonetheless, and should be managed properly. Autumn depression can have devastating effects on your work, social life and relationships. Here, you’ll learn about what causes autumn depression, how depression can be managed, and what you can do to avoid these episodes.
What Is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal depression is one of many mood disorders and is thought to be a subtype of depression, though it occurs at the same time each year. One rare form of seasonal depression, “summer depression,” has been known to begin during late spring and end in fall. Most seasonal depression disorders begin during the fall or winter months. The symptoms associated with seasonal depression can be extremely difficult to deal with. This is why it is encouraged that you seek help if you are experiencing symptoms.
What Causes Autumn Depression?
While the exact cause of seasonal depression is not known, it is believed that the presence of certain hormones may trigger certain changes during a particular time of the year. One other theory is that seasonal depression may be brought on by the amount of sunlight you receive during the fall and winter months, which can negatively affect your biological clock. Less sunlight results in less serotonin, which helps regulate mood. When these elements don’t work properly, you may notice an onslaught of depression, or other symptoms, like fatigue.
There are other factors that may be to blame for onslaughts of seasonal depression. Melatonin levels, for instance, can be impacted by a change in season and can affect your mood or sleep patterns.
What Are the Symptoms of Seasonal Depression?
As seasonal affective disorders are related to major depression, their symptoms may be similar. These can include:
- Feeling depressed much of the time
- Feeling worthless
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Low energy, sluggishness
- Problems with sleep
- Changes in weight or appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Certain symptoms are specific to autumn depression and winter depression. These can include
- Low energy or tiredness, oversleeping;
- Hypersensitivity to rejection;
- A heavy feeling in the legs or arms;
- Weight gain; and
- Changes in appetite.
Certain risk factors may make you more vulnerable to seasonal depression.
While men with seasonal depression may experience symptoms more severely, women are more often diagnosed with the disorder.
Young people are more likely than older adults to develop autumn depression or seasonal depression.
Genetics may play a role in seasonal depression. People with the disorder are more likely to have relatives with SAD or other forms of depression.
Existing depression or bipolar disorder
If you are dealing with depression, your symptoms may worsen during certain times of the year.
How Is Seasonal Depression Diagnosed?
If you are dealing with autumn depression or other seasonal depression, you may want to consult a professional who can help you determine a method of management. You may undergo a series of tests in order to be diagnosed.
Physical exam. Your doctor may ask you a series of in-depth questions and perform a physical exam that can help lead to a proper diagnoses for your seasonal depression. These may also include lab tests to examine your blood. Depression can sometimes be linked to an underlying health issue, which is why a physical exam and lab tests may be necessary.
Psychological evaluation. It’s also important to undergo a physiological evaluation if you suspect you may be dealing with seasonal depression. Your doctor will ask about your thoughts, symptoms and behavior, and may ask you to answer a questionnaire. These answers can help determine the severity of your depression and the best course of action.
A number of treatments may be effective in managing autumn depression or seasonal depression. These can include medications, light therapy, psychotherapy or natural remedies. If you are searching for ways to relieve anxiety, consider the following:
Light therapy, or phototherapy, will involve you sitting a few feet away from a light therapy box, which will expose you to bright light that mimics natural sunlight. This has been known to cause chemical changes in the brain, which can impact mood. Light therapy is associated with few side effects and can be effective in as little as a few days. For these reasons, light therapy is among the foremost methods of treatment for autumn depression. You might choose to purchase your own light therapy box, though you should consult with a doctor prior to purchasing to ensure you understand how to use it safely and effectively.
Psychotherapy is also effective as it will help you talk through your feelings. This type of therapy is effective in identifying negative thoughts and working to change them. It can also help you manage your stress levels.
Certain medications may be highly effective in managing your autumn depression. Your doctor might prescribe antidepressants, which can be used prior to the start of the season in order to help prevent a bout of autumn depression. You might need to experiment with several different medications in order to find one that suits your specific needs.
There are a number of natural remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms associated with your seasonal depression. These natural medicines can be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise to promote a healthy body and mind. If you are struggling with symptoms of autumn depression, it’s wise to experiment with different methods to the most effective.
Have you struggled with autumn depression in the past? What techniques have you found useful in managing symptoms? For more information on seasonal depression or summer depression, click here.