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Seasonal Depression: Everything You Need to Know

Harmony Bay Wellness

Seasonal depression is a type of depression many people experience in relation to the changing of the seasons. Unlike many other types of depression, it can be linked to a direct cause and usually occurs at the same time every year. Some people refer to it as the winter blues, but it is more severe than general moodiness, as some people may experience severe seasonal depression. That is why it is important to understand what this disorder is and how you can treat it. 

What is Seasonal Depression? 

Seasonal depression, which is also called seasonal affective disorder or SAD, is a type of depression caused by seasonal changes. Many people start to see the side effects of this disorder around fall when there is less sunlight during the day, and the weather gets colder. It is possible for people to also have seasonal depression during spring and early summer, but it is less common. 

SAD usually sets in during fall when there is less sunlight during the day and becomes better around spring when the days become longer. If you have SAD, you will most likely notice it coming and going at the same time every year. 

What Causes Seasonal Depression? 

Many people categorize seasonal affective disorder as being in a funk or having the winter blues, but it can be much more serious than that. Although there is still a lot of mystery around SAD, it can be linked to some factors that can cause this disorder: 

  • Circadian rhythm: The reduced amount of sunlight in the fall and winter seasons can directly lead to SAD. This can occur as your body‘s internal clock is altered by the decreased sunlight, leading to mood changes. 
  • Melatonin levels: The drastic change in fall and winter can disrupt the delicate balance of melatonin in your body. Melatonin has an important role in sleep and mood, which can increase your risk of depression if that balance is altered. 
  • Serotonin levels: Sunlight has a significant impact on your serotonin levels, which is why many people experience a drop in serotonin around fall and winter. Serotonin impacts your mood and can lead to increased feelings of depression when you do not get enough sunlight. 
  • Other types of depression: Those who already struggle with mental health disorders may find that they are more likely to experience SAD. This is especially common for those who have other types of depression since this can make you more likely to experience mood changes. 

Who Does This Affect? 

Research shows that seasonal depression is much more common in young adults rather than older adults. It is also more likely to occur in those who already have some kind of depression or bipolar disorder. 

Some people also have a family history of seasonal depression, which puts them at risk of experiencing this. Those who live farther from the equator may have a higher risk of SAD since they have less exposure to sunlight during the winter. The same rule applies to those who live in places where the autumn and winter months are much longer. 

Having low levels of vitamin D can also create a higher risk of SAD during fall and winter. That is why it is important to supplement your vitamin D during these darker months when you will be exposed to less natural sunlight. 

Symptoms of SAD 

If you are experiencing seasonal affective disorder, you may notice common symptoms related to depression. This can include things like low energy levels, problems sleeping, lack of concentration, feelings of hopelessness, and a loss of interest. But there are some other more specific symptoms related to seasonal depression that you want to be aware of: 

  • Weight gain 
  • Appetite changes 
  • Oversleeping 
  • Daytime grogginess 

If you are experiencing the rarer spring and summer seasonal depression, you may notice different symptoms. This includes things like a decreased appetite, irritability, anxiety, or insomnia. 

How to Treat Seasonal Depression 

Just because seasonal depression falls into a different category of depression, that does not make it any less severe or treatable. If this is something that you experience every year, there are certain steps you can take to improve your symptoms and your quality of life. Here are some examples of steps you can take to improve SAD, whether you have very mild or severe symptoms. 

Adjust to the Seasons 

Because seasonal depression is brought on by the changing of the seasons, you can prepare yourself ahead of time. Some ways to do this include finding activities you can enjoy doing during these seasons. You can start taking walks, take on outdoor sports, join social groups, or pick up a new hobby. 

Finding ways to adapt and acclimate to the seasons is vital when it comes to tackling the severity of your SAD. You can make this more effective by doing activities with friends or family members so that you also enjoy the benefits of socialization as well. 

Use Light Therapy 

A very well-known method of treating SAD is using different forms of light therapy. Many people have seen great results using bright light therapy with light boxes that mimic natural sunlight. These light boxes provide different wavelengths than regular light bulbs and can help boost serotonin in your brain. It’s recommended that you use a light therapy box for 20 to 30 minutes a day, ideally early in the morning. 

Another form of light therapy you could try is a dawn simulator, which works much like an alarm clock. A dawn simulator produces light, which gradually increases like natural sunlight until it wakes you up. These are much less harsh than an alarm going off and can help boost your mood as you can wake up to a light atmosphere. 

Take a Vacation 

Some people may have severe SAD, which can make it very difficult to get through the colder months of the year. It can be especially difficult to deal with this type of depression if you live in a place that has a long fall and winter season. Because of this, you may want to consider taking a vacation around this time to a warmer and brighter climate. 

Some people choose to go on a tropical vacation during fall and winter to avoid a portion of this season. This can help reduce the severity of your SAD as well as the length of time you will experience it. 

See a Therapist  

Just because seasonal depression is a temporary type of depression, that does not mean therapy isn’t a valid option. Many people find therapy to be a great treatment option that helps them communicate their feelings and get an expert’s opinion. 

Many therapists have experience with SAD and can help you take steps to alleviate some of your symptoms. For more severe cases of SAD, a therapist can also prescribe antidepressants to help alleviate the symptoms. 


Seasonal depression is a disorder that is quite common since it is the result of the seasons changing and how this impacts your mental health. Even though this type of depression is only temporary, it can come with many unpleasant side effects, such as tiredness, lack of motivation, problems sleeping, and a lack of enjoyment. Common methods used to treat depression can help with SAD, such as seeing a therapist or using antidepressants during certain times of the year. 

Are you struggling with seasonal depression and need to talk to someone about it? Contact us today at Harmony Bay Wellness to book an appointment with one of our experienced depression therapists. 

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