A Season of Depression

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I spent a total of fifty hours in the backseat of our car between my screaming 3-month-old baby and a very restless 2-year-old. However, I will say that the time we spent with our family was absolutely priceless. It was such a blast . . . I would do it all over again in a heartbeat! The memories that we made will be imprinted in my mind and heart forever.

So, what does everyone think about the time change? I will tell you that I don’t like it. The days get so short. It feels like 10 p.m. when it’s only 5 p.m., and the hours of sunlight just seem to dwindle away into the darkness. It’s no wonder some people suffer with seasonal depression during the winter months. Winter can be kind of depressing especially when one is cooped-up with children who are bundles of energy. I’ve probably already been suffering from cabin fever since August; the winter months will just be an extension of the already long “maternity leave.”

You know, the funny thing is that when I started reading about seasonal depression I found out it can also affect people in the summer months too. Who knew? And although most of us have heard it called seasonal depression, the correct name is seasonal affective disorder. I never really knew much about this type of depression until I found out one of my family members suffered from it. I grew up in the Chicago area, so it’s no wonder. The winters there are bone chilling and seem to last forever especially when the wind doesn’t let up. It really can become miserable.

Anyways, I can’t tell you all the inn’s and out’s of seasonal depression, but I’m going to give you some information from the mayoclinic.com that I hope will be helpful.

Seasonal affective disorder is a cyclic, seasonal condition. This means that signs and symptoms usually come back and go away at the same times every year. Usually, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the warmer, sunnier days of spring and summer. But some people have the opposite pattern, developing seasonal affective disorder with the onset of spring or summer. In either case, problems may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.

Fall and winter SAD (winter depression)
Symptoms of winter-onset seasonal affective disorder include:
Depression
Hopelessness
Anxiety
Loss of energy
Social withdrawal
Oversleeping
Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
Weight gain
Difficulty concentrating and processing information

Spring and summer SAD (summer depression)
Symptoms of summer-onset seasonal affective disorder include:
Anxiety
Insomnia
Irritability
Agitation
Weight loss
Poor appetite
Increased sex drive

Reverse SAD
In rare cases, people with seasonal affective disorder don’t have depression-like symptoms. Instead, they have symptoms of mania or hypomania, a less intense form of mania, during the summer. This is sometimes called reverse SAD.
Symptoms of reverse SAD include:
Persistently elevated mood
Increased social activity
Hyperactivity
Unbridled enthusiasm out of proportion to the situation

The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. It’s likely, as with many mental health conditions, that genetics, age and perhaps most importantly, your body’s natural chemical makeup all play a role in developing seasonal affective disorder.
Specifically, the culprits may include:

Your circadian rhythm. Some researchers suspect that the reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may disrupt the circadian rhythm in certain people. The circadian rhythm is a physiological process that helps regulate your body’s internal clock — letting you know when to sleep or wake. Disruption of this natural body clock may cause depression.

Melatonin. Some researchers theorize that seasonal affective disorder may be tied to melatonin, a sleep-related hormone that, in turn, has been linked to depression. The body’s production of melatonin usually increases during the long nights of winter.

Serotonin. Still other research suggests that a lack of serotonin, a natural brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, may play a role. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, perhaps leading to depression.

Some risk factors include:

Northern locations. Some evidence suggests that seasonal affective disorder is more common among people who live in higher latitudes — or farther from the equator.
Family history. Some studies have shown that people with SAD are more likely to have family members with the condition. But research about a potential genetic component has been mixed.

Mayoclinic.com suggests seeking medical advice when “you feel down for days at a time and you can’t seem to get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy. This is particularly important if you notice that your sleep patterns and appetite have changed — and certainly if you feel hopeless, think about suicide, or find yourself turning to alcohol for comfort or relaxation.”

Seasons will continue to change, and if you suffer from seasonal depression you will