3 things that might help symptoms of seasonal depression

What might be causing feelings of sadness associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (Kristi King)

What some people call the “winter blues” during months with shorter periods of daylight can develop in others as a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD — but a D.C. counselor has advice that might help.

“It generally presents the same as depression, or major depression,” said psychotherapist
William McVey of Capital Center for Psychotherapy and Wellness. “It might lighten up a little bit as we move into the spring and summer months.”

About 10 to 20% of people with depression, in general, will experience SAD that’s typically diagnosed after someone notices increased symptoms during fall and winter for two consecutive years, McVey said.

Symptoms of SAD can include feeling withdrawn, unengaged, unmotivated, sleeping a lot more than usual and or experiencing weight gain, sadness and hopelessness.

McVey offers some advice for what might help.

Stay active and exercise

“If you can get 30 minutes of cardio around five times a week, that can be more effective than any kind of antidepressant.”

Vitamin D

Make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D, which is produced in your skin in response to sunlight.

“Trying to do that before you feel the onset is much more effective than doing it to try to solve the issue once you’re deep into it.”

Photo therapy

Photo therapy involves getting 20 to 60 minutes of exposure to bright full spectrum 10,000 Lux light.

It’s a florescent light you can get online in the $50-$100 range.

“Make sure you’re getting that 10,000 Lux; it simulates sunlight, but UVA rays are filtered out,” McVey said.

The Mayo Clinic has advice for choosing the right light box for your needs online.

“We’re all in a really difficult time — COVID is happening — I think everyone is experiencing some level of frustration or depression,” McVey said. “And, if you are feeling hopeless, you’re feeling really lethargic and unmotivated and having a difficult time getting out of bed or going to work or you’re feeling withdrawn from friends … seek out help and to reach out to someone and try and get professional help and assistance through some of these really difficult things that are happening through all of our lives.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing extreme loneliness, anxiety or depression, you can communicate with a crisis counselor by texting the word HOME to the number 741741.

There’s also help at the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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