Seasonal Depression

By Greta Nielsen, LCPC

“As Winter approaches I get that feeling that I just want to go to bed and stay there until March. Do I have Seasonal Depression?”

This time of year in this part of the country most of us would like to fast forward to the warm, sunny days of spring --- perhaps even summer! So you are not alone in wanting to avoid the cold, gray days we are forced to endure here in the Chicago area. There is a difference, though, between simply not enjoying the weather and feeling hopeless and helpless during the winter months.

If you answered “yes” to at least four of the above questions, then chances are you’re experiencing what’s commonly known as “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” This differs from Depressive Disorder in that it is only experienced at certain times of the year. It most commonly occurs in the fall or winter and will abate in spring. As many as a half-million people in the United States may experience winter-onset depression. This is a complicated condition as people tend to minimize its impact. After all, who doesn’t want to stay indoors on a cold, blustery day? Who doesn’t eat a little more in the winter months? Who wouldn’t rather stay in bed than face those cold wooden floors?

The problem is that the depression can begin to control you and you begin to separate yourself more and more from everyday routines and relationships. The good news is that there are small, subtle changes you can incorporate into your life to help you return to your normal state of functioning. The following are steps that can help decrease your depression:

If you’ve tried all these tools and still can’t seem to pull yourself out of your depression, then it is probably time to seek some outside support. Mental health counseling for depression is highly effective. Sometimes having outside support and perspective can be just what you need to turn the corner. Light therapy is another option for treatment of S.A.D. and anti-depressant medication might also be recommended if a chemical imbalance is evident. Whether it’s subtle changes in your daily routine, going to counseling, or beginning medication, there is help and hope that you won’t just survive these winter months, but thrive through them!