Depression is often thought of as only a chemical imbalance, but a number of factors contribute to the illness. Time of year is one factor. Known casually as the “winter blues,” SAD is a form of depression that reoccurs annually, usually in late fall and winter.
Like most forms of depression, more women than men experience SAD, and symptoms can start in the teen years. Research shows it occurs more commonly in people located in the northern latitudes—places with longer winter nights. Although there is no specific test that can detect SAD, the symptoms are typically the same as other forms of depression and include:
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, contact your doctor and receive a full medical evaluation to rule out other possible illnesses or diseases.
A doctor can prescribe antidepressant medications and introduce talk therapy. There are also a number of effective ways to treat your symptoms at home, including:
For those who are unable to shake the blues at home or via medications, light therapy is an option. This form of treatment begins before the symptoms of SAD appear and uses a specific type of lamp to simulate sunlight. The patient sits in front of the light source for about 30 minutes each morning shortly after awakening. Studies show this form of therapy is as effective as antidepressants in some minor cases of SAD. The symptoms of SAD usually improve after three to four weeks using light therapy.
Depression is not simple, and neither is treatment. Understanding the factors of depression can be the first step toward recovery. These negative feelings are symptoms of illness, not reality. If you have any thoughts of hurting yourself or know someone who does, do not isolate yourself or leave the person isolated. Seek medical assistance immediately.