(WSYR) – If the recent switch from summer to fall is dragging you down, you are not alone.
As cooler temperatures and decreasing daylight become more common, seasonal depressions also occur. But there are tips that can help people struggling with it.
“Some people tend to become depressed when there is a lack of sunlight and feel down,” says Dr. Rich O’Neill, Professor of Psychology at State University of New York, Upstate.
The toughest months for people with seasonal depression — or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — tend to be January and February, but it can start now — and more often in women than men.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, seasonal depression consists of mood swings during short periods of time when you feel sad or different from yourself, typically caused by the change in season.
This differs from major depression, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “is more than feeling down or having a bad day.” Major depression, according to the CDC, occurs when “a sad mood is prolonged and interferes with normal, everyday functioning.”
The American Psychiatric Association says about 5% of adults in the US experience seasonal depression, with symptoms similar to major depression.
“It’s important not to think, ‘Oh, that’s a change in season’ without getting a proper diagnosis. So you should work with a psychologist to find out what’s causing this,” O’Neill said.
There are many ways to treat seasonal depression, including methods that mimic sunlight.
“Just take a little time every day to sit in front of a light box where you get the same light in your eyes and in your brain that you get from the sun,” O’Neill said, referring to it as a kind of light therapy .
Additionally, people with SAD may simply stand in front of a window when it’s light or go outside to get more light. Vitamin D can also help, as can more exercise.
“Most people in the United States are sedentary, and getting moving again — which is difficult in the winter — can strengthen your mind,” O’Neill said.
Medications and psychotherapy are other options when seasonal depression has progressed beyond the winter blues.
If you have seasonal depression, the NIH recommends talking to your doctor to find treatment that’s right for you.