Seasonal depression, also called seasonal affective disorder or SAD, is the same as depression, except its onset follows a seasonal pattern. It is most common in fall and winter when days get shorter, sunlight is less abundant, and weather is often worse. The effects of seasonal depression can mirror that of regular depression. The classic symptoms of sadness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness typically accompany seasonal depression. Notably, seasonal depression is diagnosed in women at a rate that is four times higher than in men. Its impact is still the same. But this higher prevalence means women need to be more aware of the effects of seasonal depression, particularly as summer gives way to fall and winter.
There are treatment options available at the women’s depression treatment center at The Willows at Red Oak Recovery®. Reach out to 855.773.0614 to get more information about seasonal depression treatment.
Physical Effects of Seasonal Depression in Women
Seasonal depression physically affects men and women the same. The difference is largely related to the disorder being much more common in women. Research points to the influence of the female hormone estrogen as a potential culprit for this difference between the genders. Women with seasonal depression typically experience the following physical effects:
- An urge to sleep more
- An increased appetite that may lead to weight gain
- Difficulty with mental concentration
Changes in appetite are often related to a craving for more carbohydrate-heavy foods. That, in some ways, can contribute to the body’s need for more sleep since excess carbohydrates cause sleepiness or a lack of energy. A few factors that influence the effects of seasonal depression on women include circadian rhythms, serotonin levels, and melatonin levels.
First, the circadian rhythms can be disrupted as the seasons change, and light levels decrease. The lack of light can disrupt the biological clock in ways that leave people more predisposed to negative emotions. Second, reduced sunlight can lead to drops in serotonin levels. Serotonin is a brain chemical that governs positive mood, so lower levels cause many of the side effects common to seasonal depression. Third, melatonin regulates sleep patterns. Higher melatonin levels in winter months can result in excessive sleepiness and a penchant for more emotionally down days.
What Does Depression Treatment Involved?
Seasonal depression treatment involves a combination of light therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Light therapy is specific to seasonal depression and is not typically used in treating other mental health disorders. That’s due to one potential cause of seasonal depression being insufficient sunlight, which in turn, means Vitamin D levels are likely lower than necessary. Light therapy sessions involve sitting in front of a special lamp, usually in the morning. The lamp replicates the healthy light rays given off by the sun to make up for decreased natural exposure in the winter months.
The other method employed in seasonal depression treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This form of talk therapy addresses the thought patterns and behaviors that underlie a person’s negative emotions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy also guides patients through finding positive ways to influence their mood and avoid spirals of negativity.
Millions of people who struggle with seasonal depression and other mental health disorders fail to get the help they need. In the case of seasonal depression, it can be easy to put off seeking professional help due to a confidence that the symptoms are temporary and will go away come spring. But feeling better is possible. Putting up with unnecessary bad mental health days does nobody any good.
Begin Treatment at The Willows at Red Oak Recovery®
Many depression treatment centers offer women-only treatment programs that cater to the needs, preferences, and concerns of women. They employ evidence-based therapies, use medication where appropriate, and connect women to sources of mentorship and support that are key to overcoming depression. Learn more about depression treatment designed for women by calling The Willows at Red Oak Recovery® at 855.773.0614.