Nearly 18.8 million Americans over age 18 suffer from major depression. Unfortunately, most people never seek treatment. Left undiagnosed and untreated, depression can worsen, lasting for years and causing untold suffering, and possibly even result in suicide.
Symptoms of depression include:
Loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable
Loss of energy
Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
Difficulty making decisions
Taking action early can help you fend off these winter depression symptoms. Experts believe that SAD stems from a body clock that's out of synch and is associated with the lack of natural sunlight.
Here’s a winter game plan to keep depression at bay, or lessen its effect, this season.
If You Suffer Winter Depression, Check In With Your Doctor
Start your "game plan" as soon as you notice the first symptoms of worsening depression, suggests Norman Rosenthal, MD, the leader of the research team that first identified SAD in 1984 and author of Winter Blues.
Checking in with your doctor is a good first step, he says. That way, you and your doctor can alter your treatment if you’re already being treated, or tailor a new treatment plan based on your needs.
Know Your Treatment Options for Depression in Winter
Several treatments have been shown to improve seasonal winter depression. Among them: light therapy, antidepressantmedication, talk therapy, and the hormone melatonin.
"People need to mix and match and figure out what works for them," says Rosenthal, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. and a psychiatrist in private practice.
See the Light to Ease Winter Depression Symptoms
Light therapy might be as simple as getting up early and walking outside on a bright winter morning, Rosenthal tells WebMD. "You can also increase light in your home," he says "Make one room a sun room."