People are effected in all kinds of ways with the change of the seasons. Today is blustery, windy, cool, dark with the promise of rain, lots of rain. It’s fall. That means there will be less sunlight in the day, more cold weather, more darkness. I don’t mind the fall. I love Halloween, the change of colors, the cooler temperatures.
Some people dread the fall. It means the beginning of a season of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), now called Depressive Disorder with seasonal pattern in the DSM 5, is the onset of depression at the beginning of a specific season, like fall or winter, which disappears at the onset of a specific season, like spring or summer. Yes, it could happen the other way around, though rare. If you start to feel more sad, irritable, sleepy or anxious and your desire to do your usual activities wanes in the shorter days. You might have SAD.
Like “regular” depression, the brain chemicals that regulate mood, serotonin, epinephrine and norepinephrine, seem to dip during the shorter days. The theory is the decrease in sunlight impacts circadiam rhythms, causing sleepiness, disruptions in sleep and drop in serotonin. Therefore, theoretically, using a UV light should help! Light therapy has been demonstrated to work well for people with seasonal patterns of depression. I have seen it work with clients who used it properly. Getting an at home UV light can be tricky. Not all light therapy boxes are created equal. Be sure to get one with full spectrum UV/UB lights. One that won’t burn you like the sun, but will give you the advantages of the light.
Depending on the severity of one’s depression, light therapy and being active socially and physically, can make all the difference. Some others may need medication to alleviate the seasonal sadness. Some people just head south and spend the winter in warmer climates.
Here is some information from NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) on SAD.