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What is Seasonal Depression?

What Is Seasonal Depression

Have you ever heard of the “winter blues” or “cabin fever”? Those phrases are two of many that describe seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder. As context clues may lead your to conclude, this type of depression is only felt during certain months of the year. Many people feel the effects starting in September and it lasts until April or May. Those who suffer from seasonal depression have the common signs of depression such as anxiety, loss of interest, lessened social interaction, lack of energy and of course sadness.

So what is the reason for being a little bit down during only certain months of they year? The sun might be the answer. The following is from the Cleveland Clinic’s page on seasonal depression:

The exact cause of this condition is not known, but the influence of latitude on SAD strongly suggests that it is caused by changes in the availability of sunlight. One theory is that with decreased exposure to sunlight, the biological clock that regulates mood, sleep, and hormones is delayed, running more slowly in winter. Exposure to light may reset the biological clock.

Another theory is that brain chemicals that transmit information between nerves, called neurotransmitters (for example, serotonin), may be altered in individuals with SAD. It is believed that exposure to light can correct these imbalances.

If the lack of light is the problem, then getting some light seems to be the simple solution. Doctors often prescribe light therapy to treat seasonal depression. Following are two types of light therapy from WebMD’s page on seasonal depression:

  • Bright light treatment. For this treatment, you sit in front of a “light box” for half an hour or longer, usually in the morning.
  • Dawn simulation. For this treatment, a dim light goes on in the morning while you sleep, and it gets brighter over time, like a sunrise.

If you are suffering from seasonal depression, you might be able to pull yourself out of the blues with a home remedy. TLC offers 27 Home Remedies for Season Depression on their website.

Additional Reading on Seasonal Depression:
Seasonal Affective Disorder (About)
Seasonal Depression (SAD) (EMed Health)
Great Plains Lab Researches Seasonal Depression (Fox4 Kansas City)
5 Food Tips to Beat the Winter Blues (MindBodyGreen)

* Photo courtesy of Adam Swank via Flickr Creative Commons.

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