Your Mental Health: Seasonal Depression
In the summer, it is time for parties, cottage country, club life, and refreshments by the pool. The sun shines, birds squawk away in the morning (some are kinder by calling this “chirping”), and everything is in full bloom. So, why do some people prefer to stay indoors? Avoid seeing their friends? Are agitated? Have trouble sleeping?
Seasonal depression may be something that several of us are still in the dark about understanding, fully. After all, there are still a number of stigmas associated with mental illnesses. Some people might find it hard to believe that there are indeed people, students even, who get depressed during a time where everyone seems to be having the time of their lives.
The Canadian Mental Health Association defines seasonal affective disorder as a type of clinical depression that occurs during the winter months or, less commonly, during the summer.
The research is still ongoing. However, research tells us that it’s existed for the past 150 years. The risk of experiencing SAD is more common in people over the age of 20 but has also been discovered in teenagers as well.
CMHA warns us that SAD may be difficult to treat given that the symptoms are often found in patients with bipolar disorder or depression, “Generally, symptoms that recur for at least 2 consecutive winters, without any other explanation for the changes in mood and behaviour, indicate the presence of SAD.”
The symptoms will differ depending on when you suffer from the illness. For example, if you suffer during the winter months, symptoms include weight gain, low energy, avoidance of social situations, irritability, and the tendency to sleep a lot. Whereas if you suffer in the summer you’re more susceptible to weight loss, and trouble sleeping.
Only 2 – 3% of the general population suffers from SAD while about 15% suffer from something a little less severe called “winter blues”.
However, don’t let the title “winter blues” stop you from seeing the potential of having SAD. Depression, in any form, is something very serious and regardless of whether or not SAD is spoken about or treated often, you deserve to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. And there is treatment for this kind of depression.
The aforementioned link provides several helpful tips on how to receive treatment, such as spending time outdoors, exercising, or vacationing.
Whichever route you’ve decided to take, it’s always worth mentioning that there are people to speak to about what you’re going through. Your family doctor is available for consultation but also remember that your university or college has doctors and councillors for you to speak with. Don’t convince yourself that it’s just “winter blues” because at the end of the day, you’re still suffering. You deserve to be happy. If you suspect that you or someone close to you is showing symptoms of SAD, talk to someone. We wash away ignorance by talking about our illnesses and there’s no shame in acknowledging that you’re on a road to recovery.