Outside, the sky is dark by 6 p.m. in Kentucky, and a young woman sits on her couch with a bowl of her favorite chips. She feels like she doesn’t have the energy to care right now, as she is curled up into a giant blanket, watching her comfort show for the 5th time this year. She thinks back to a few months ago and wonders why, all of a sudden, she feels sadness. Just a few months ago, she was calling up her friends to go out and celebrate her best friend’s birthday, and now she can’t find the energy even to pick up her phone to call that friend.
She decides to go to bed by 7 p.m., and when she wakes the following day, and the sun still isn’t up, she pulls the covers back over her head, feeling even more tired than last night. She feels like she has no motivation to even think about going to work today, let alone get out of bed, and she worries that something must be wrong with her. She wonders if she will ever feel like she did a few months ago, or if it will just be her life now. Jealousy creeps in as she thinks about how bears can hibernate. When discussing her fears and feelings with a friend, her friend suggests seeing a doctor for seasonal depression.
In 2021, 34% of people in Kentucky experienced some form of depression. At SUN Behavioral Health Kentucky, we offer 24/7 crisis care that allows you to be able to seek treatment for seasonal depression when a moment of crisis occurs. This moment might happen at night when offices are closed. Today, we are going to discuss seasonal depression and how it differs from other types of depression.
Seasonal depression occurs during certain times of the year and is sometimes known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is a type of depression often triggered by the change of seasons. While some people might feel a little down when the weather turns colder here in Kentucky, those who have seasonal depression will experience worsening depression symptoms.
Both SAD and depression can have similar symptoms, but the most significant difference is when these symptoms occur. SAD occurs when the seasons shift. People who experience seasonal depression might have much worse symptoms during the periods of fall and winter than they do during the rest of the year. Most of the time, a medical professional will also look at a two-year time frame before diagnosing seasonal depression. In this case, they are looking to see if there is a seasonal increase in symptoms for two or more consecutive years. Both seasonal depression and other forms of depression are treatable.
Typically, seasonal depression occurs when the seasons change from one to the next. The most common seasons that seasonal depression appears are in the fall and winter months. Symptoms occur during these months because there is less sunlight, and the days get shorter. For most people, seasonal depression will improve when spring and summer come around. However, some people might experience the opposite effect in that they experience seasonal depression during the summer months and then improve when winter comes. Both experiences are valid and do not mean that you are alone in your experience.
Not everyone who experiences seasonal depression will experience all of the signs of depression, but they will share some. These might include feeling depressed every day, having problems sleeping, and having low energy. They might also feel hopeless or worthless and have difficulty concentrating. Depending on the type of seasonal depression you are experiencing, you might have more specific symptoms. For example, someone with winter-pattern seasonal depression might experience overeating, social withdrawal, and weight gain. On the other hand, people with summer-pattern seasonal depression might have poor appetite, anxiety, violent behavior, and weight loss.
There can also be signs of severe depression in someone who is experiencing seasonal depression. These signs include thoughts of suicide and self-harm. Seek immediate help if you have these thoughts or plan on acting on these thoughts. You are not alone, and help is out there. Severe depression due to seasonal depression can also include problems at work or school, substance use, and social withdrawal.
There are several reasons that seasonal depression might occur, but there is no one reason why it does. While typical triggers for depression might play a role in seasonal depression, there are other reasons that someone might feel depression only during certain times of the year. These include disrupting your biological clock by reducing sunlight in the fall and winter. The body’s internal clock runs on sunlight, so the lack of sunlight in the morning and evenings can lead to feelings of depression. The body might experience a drop in serotonin due to reduced sunlight during the winter in Kentucky. Serotonin is a natural chemical in the body that controls functions such as mood, digestion, and sleep. So, when the body begins making less of it in the winter months, people might begin to experience depression as a result of it. The body can also experience changes in melatonin during the change of seasons, which disrupts the body’s ability to sleep and regulate mood.
Seasonal depression occurs more often in women than it does in men. Also, younger people are more likely to experience seasonal depression than older people. Some other risk factors can increase one’s chances of developing seasonal depression. For example, someone who lives far from the equator, such as closer to the North and South Poles, is more likely to experience seasonal depression than someone who lives on the equator. People in these areas of the world are more likely to experience seasonal depression because when they experience winter, they have highly decreased amounts of sunlight, while their summers are much longer. People who already have depression or bipolar disorder are also more likely to experience a worsening of their symptoms during the changing seasons.
Low vitamin D levels can also cause SAD because people often get vitamin D from sunlight, which can boost serotonin levels. Suppose a person is not getting vitamin D from food and other sources during the winter months. In that case, they are more likely to experience seasonal depression. Family history can also play a role, as having a relative with seasonal depression increases your chances of also having it. Remember, having any of these circumstances does not mean that you will experience seasonal depression. These are factors that increase your chances.
Here in Kentucky, when the sun sets earlier and rises later, it can become challenging to manage the symptoms that come with seasonal depression. Complications found in severe depression can make things worse for people. However, seeking depression treatment can be the best way to prevent symptoms from getting worse. Nobody should have to experience depression alone, no matter the severity. Getting ahead of your symptoms through treatment can give you the skills to manage them when the season changes before your appetite, energy, and mood changes. Seeking treatment can also help you predict when those symptoms will start and allow you to get the necessary help before the symptoms become troublesome.
Seasonal depression can be a difficult experience in Kentucky, but it doesn’t have to be. Located in Erlanger, KY, SUN Behavioral Health helps solve unmet needs in our community by helping you manage seasonal depression. We offer a no-cost care assessment with telehealth options that allow you to meet with a representative before you begin any payments at our facility. For more information or to start your treatment today, call us at 859-429-5188.
While most people experience seasonal depression in the fall and winter, seasonal depression can occur during the spring and summer as well. The most significant indicator of seasonal depression is that a change in mood occurs during the changing of two seasons. This change can occur between autumn and winter or spring and summer, and all experiences are valid.
Seasonal depression can be associated with bipolar disorder, but it does not necessarily mean it is a form of bipolar. People can experience bipolar disorder with a seasonal pattern. For example, they might experience depression in the winter and mania in the summer. However, seasonal depression can also be associated with major depression, where depression occurs during the winter. Still, there are no symptoms of depression or mania in the summer. There can also be several variants of the two in between.