Public Health

Seasonal Depression (Winter Depression)

Seasonal depression:
A type of depression that relates to the seasons. The most common type is called winter depression. It usually begins in late fall or early winter and disappears by summer. Some people begin to feel sad as daylight hours shorten in fall and winter and then begin to feel better in spring with longer daylight hours. In some cases, these mood changes are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks, and deals with daily activities.


The exact cause of seasonal depression is not known, but most research suggests that it is often related to decreased exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of fall and winter, which is thought to affect:

  • Melatonin production: An essential hormone for maintaining the natural sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin production increases in people who suffer from seasonal depression, which increases their feelings of sleepiness.
  • Production of serotonin: a hormone that affects mood, appetite and sleep; Lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is associated with feelings of depression.
  • Circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock): The body uses sunlight to adjust various important functions (such as: wake-up time), so low light levels during the winter may disrupt the body’s biological clock and lead to symptoms of seasonal depression.
  • Negative thoughts: People with seasonal depression often suffer from stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts about the winter, but it is not known whether these negative thoughts are a cause or a consequence of seasonal depression.

Seasonal depression is not considered a separate disorder, but rather a type of depression characterized by its recurrent seasonal pattern, with symptoms lasting for a period ranging from 4 to 5 months per year. Therefore, its symptoms include symptoms associated with major depression in addition to other symptoms that vary according to the type of depression:

Symptoms of major depression include:

  • Feeling sad most of the day, almost every day.
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities.
  • Changes in appetite or weight.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Feeling lethargic or irritable.
  • Low energy.
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless.
  • Having difficulty concentrating.
  • Having recurring thoughts about death or suicide.
Symptoms of seasonal depression in the winter include:
  • Excessive sleep (hypersomnia).
  • Overeating, especially with strong cravings for carbohydrates and sweets.
  • Overweight.
  • Feeling heavy in the arms and feet.
  • Social withdrawal.

Symptoms can be improved by:

  • Get as much natural sunlight as possible during the day.
  • Sit near windows when you are indoors.
  • Exercise regularly, especially outdoors and in broad daylight.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
  • If possible, avoid stressful situations and take steps to manage stress.
  • It may also be helpful to talk to loved ones and friends about your condition, so they understand how mood changes during the winter which can help them support you more effectively.

There are several treatment methods that can help many people who suffer from seasonal depression, which are prescribed by a doctor. They can be used alone or in combination:

  • Light therapy: This is because winter depression is likely caused by lack of sunlight.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: It is a talk therapy based on the idea that the way we think and act affects the way we feel, and therefore changing the way we think about situations and what is done about them can help to feel better.
  • Antidepressant medications: which are prescribed by a doctor when needed.

Tips for people with seasonal depression:
It may not be possible to prevent seasonal depression from occurring the first time, but once a doctor diagnoses it, steps can be taken to better manage the disease or even prevent it from returning by doing the following:

  • Start using light therapy in early fall, before you feel symptoms of sadness.
  • Spend time outside every day, even if it's cloudy, as daylight can help you feel better.
  • Eat healthy and nutritious meals. Although the body may crave starchy and high-sugar foods, you must stick to nutritious options, as healthy foods that contain enough vitamins and minerals help you get the proper nutrition and energy you need.
  • Try to exercise for 30 minutes at least five times a week. Exercise relieves stress and anxiety, which can play a role in alleviating the symptoms of seasonal depression.
  • Stay in your social circle and regular activities and see friends who can provide psychological support during the winter months.
  • Get help from a mental health specialist when needed.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider to see if starting treatment early as a preventive measure is appropriate.

Last Update : 10 December 2023 01:32 PM
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