Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder

We often hear the phrase “it’s that time of year” when talking about a health issue like the flu season. Well, it’s that time of year for seasonal depression as well. Often lasting from the Fall months all the way through to early Spring, the number of months for seasonal blues is almost 6 full months. One simple explanation for Seasonal Affective Disorder is that the normal circadian rhythms are interrupted because of a lack of sunlight. That light causes melatonin, a hormone, to be emitted in the brain when the light hits the eyes. This melatonin then causes the release of Seratonin, our “feel good factor” hormone in the brain. With less light, there is less melatonin  and Seratonin circulating and thus, a decrease in alertness and the mood.

Some of the symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) are the same for other types of depression. Some of these symptoms include, fatigue and low energy, not getting pleasure out of things that were previously enjoyed, poor sleep, appetite changes, weight changes and social isolation. Often times with any type of depression, the longer it goes on untreated, the worse it gets. It can become difficult to tell if it’s Major Depression or merely seasonal blues. The symptoms are the same.

Treatments for SAD are typically light therapy, medication and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy techniques focusing on the “here and now” are very helpful in supporting the depressed person to move into workable and committed action to reclaim what is being lost from their life as a result of the SAD.  Treatment models like Cognitive Behavioral  Therapy support a person in establishing hare and now goals to step back into life.  If there are any other co-occurring mood problems or coping deficits, treatment methods like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are more applicable.

If you think that you or a loved one may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder or other types of depression, please contact Rebecca Bullion, LCSW at 615-414-2995 or