How Seasonal Changes Affect Depression

How Seasonal Changes Affect DepressionEach season brings its own series of challenges that might contribute to worsening depression. This is often a result of reduced sunlight and hormonal changes. Seasonal depression can be devastating, especially for those who feel that they should be happy. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a condition in which depression occurs during certain seasons.

Fall and Winter Depression

As summer turns to fall, the days grow shorter, and temperatures begin to drop. For some, this is a welcome change, but others may not feel the same way. SAD occurs most commonly in the winter months, likely as a result of fewer daytime hours. Reduced exposure to sunlight interferes with the body’s melatonin and serotonin production and can disturb the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Those living in areas of the world that have longer winters and shorter days are more likely to be affected by wintertime SAD.

Alfred Lewy, MD, a SAD researcher, states that exposure to light at certain times of day is essential to maintaining the body’s biological clock. In the fall, clocks are set back one hour, and people therefore end up waking before dawn each morning. It is this waking in darkness that Lewy believes impacts fall and winter depression.

Spring Depression

Some find that their depression becomes noticeably worse in the months of spring. This does not occur as frequently as in the winter, but it is still documented in many cases. For many, this occurs as a response to reduced sun intake that occurs with the increased frequency of rainfall. When the rain drives a person indoors for extended periods of time, the body’s biological clock may be disrupted, leading to feelings of depression. The reduced sunlight might also cause a drop in serotonin, a hormone that affects mood.

Dr. Paul Marshall, a neuropsychologist, reports that there is also a connection between allergies and depression. According to Marshall, a person who suffers from allergies has twice the odds of having depression than someone without allergies. This does not mean that allergies necessarily cause depression; however, there is a correlation between the two.

Summer Depression

Summertime SAD occurs less frequently than wintertime SAD. This form of SAD occurs due to longer hours in the day and increased heat and humidity. Altered routines in the summer can be enough to trigger or worsen depression for some people, especially those with kids. Suddenly having children at home all day long to take care of can be very stressful and overwhelming. There is also increased financial burden associated with children in the summer, including costs for babysitters or summer camps.

For those whose summer depression is not caused by altered routine or financial burden, the summer heat may be to blame. While some people enjoy the heat of the sun, it can seem oppressive for others. These people may forego usual outdoor activities to avoid the heat. The body’s mood regulating hormones might be altered as a result of this change.

Get Help for Depression

If you or someone you know suffers from depression, it is important to get advice about appropriate treatment services. Please call our toll-free number today. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you have about treatment for depression.