Despite the unseasonably warm weather, winter is coming and so is seasonal depression.
For those affected, the first bout of seasonal affective disorder can actually be experienced earlier as autumn sets in, said Dr. Norman Rosenthal, the psychiatrist who first described the disorder, in an article for Today.
As the days get shorter and sunlight becomes less intense, the secretion of melatonin is increased –– leading to changes in the body’s sleep-wake cycle, said Dr. Denise Deschenes, a psychiatrist at Counseling and Consultation Services at Ohio State.
“This is not a true depression [that] can be usually treated with lifestyle changes,” Deschenes said. “SAD is a true clinical depression with more serious symptoms and risks. SAD needs to be treated by a professional if lifestyle changes are not effective.”
Symptoms for SAD, also known as the winter blues, include increased appetite and sleep, shifts in mood, difficulty concentrating and decreased energy.
“Winter blues affects 10 to 30 percent of [the] population, especially in more northern latitudes, such as Ohio, where there is less ambient light in the fall and winter and more gray skies,” Deschenes said.
To try and beat the winter blues, Deschenes suggests keeping a consistent eating and sleeping routine, staying hydrated and practicing stress management. Things to avoid during this time include sleeping in, drugs, alcohol and self-isolation, Deschenes said.
As the transition into fall continues, Jazmyn Browning, a second-year in international relations and diplomacy and French, has a slew of tricks to combat any blue feelings.
“I listen to happier music playlists in the morning while getting ready — Disney tunes and feel-good oldies especially — to kind of pep me up for the day,” she said. “I also try to wear a lot of layers or warmer clothes because I know that being chilly certainly doesn’t help the situation. Also, I’m a firm believer in the healing powers of a pair of fun fuzzy socks.”
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, Deschenes recommends seeking professional assistance for when the winter blues turn out to be more serious.
“Lifestyle changes are often not enough to obtain relief from SAD,” Deschenes said. “SAD needs professional care [like] counseling, light therapy and/or medication.”