(ARA) - When seasons change, moods can change with them. When you've been cooped up during a long, dark and cold winter, the arrival of spring can leave you with a serious case of cabin fever.
For some, the change in seasons has a profound impact on their emotional state. This type of depression, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a physiological response by the body to decreases in light exposure associated with the fall and winter months, according to Dr. Gary Bruss, Dean of the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University | Southern California.
“This is one of the more biologically based forms of depression,” says Bruss. “SAD can be characterized by moodiness, heightened irritability, lack of interest in those things you usually take pleasure in, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and difficulty concentrating that take place during those fall and winter months every year.”
Simply put, you may not feel as peppy as you normally do or have the same energy level or you may not want to be around people or follow your regular routine. If you are a student, you could see your grades declining and if you work, you may see your performance slipping.
Being proactive about your mental health and taking care of yourself can help address depression and mood swings. Bruss recommends engaging in exercise, going for a walk or meeting friends or family for coffee or some fun activity. He also adds it is important to eat a balanced diet, get enough rest at night, do nice things for yourself or find a hobby to help occupy your time.
"In the fall and winter, we tend to see an increase in seasonal affective disorder and in overall stress," says Dr. Devin Byrd, Dean of the College of Health Professions at South University. "Becoming more acutely aware of your habits, stress levels and social activities can help assess and counter-balance the onset of seasonal sadness or depression."
If you sense that the season may be negatively affecting your well being, Byrd recommends that you initiate a new hobby, increase exercise, watch what you eat and take measures to take an active role in social activities.
Light exposure therapy can and is also used to combat the signs and symptoms of SAD. During this type of therapy, you sit near a device called a light therapy box. This box gives off a specific kind of light that mimics the natural light from the outdoors and can ease SAD symptoms.
If signs of depression appear in a family member, friend or co-worker, Bruss recommends talking with them and encouraging them to seek help if depression persists or worsens. He also points out that the holiday season can have a major impact on depression if a person has experienced the death of a family member, close friend or a pet. If the severity of the depression interferes with a person’s ability to function socially and/or professionally, then it’s time to seek help from a mental health professional, says Bruss.
"Seeking professional help is an increasingly common practice and people should not feel anxious about seeing a psychologist for psychotherapy or taking medication for depression if it's needed – especially for a disorder that is based so heavily on our biology. The most important thing is to connect with a professional who can help you restore emotional balance, peace and happiness to your life," Bruss says.
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About Argosy University
Argosy University (www.argosy.edu), with 28 campus locations in 13 states and online, is a private, accredited academic institution dedicated to providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs to students through its eight colleges: College of Clinical Psychology, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Business, Education, Health Sciences, Undergraduate Studies, The Art Institute of California and Western State College of Law. Degree levels and programs offered vary by location. Argosy University is accredited by the Senior College and University Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100, Alameda, California, 94501, http://www.wascsenior.org). Administrative office: Argosy University, 333 City Boulevard West, Suite 1810, Orange, CA 92868. Licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education, License No. 2610, 2630. See auprograms.info for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important info.
About South University
Established in 1899, South University (www.southuniversity.edu) is a private, accredited academic institution dedicated to providing educational opportunities for the intellectual, social and professional development of a diverse student population. South University offers over 60 degree programs across its 15 campuses located in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. South University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate, baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of South University. OH Registration # 11-07-1971T; Licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education, License No. 2987. See suprograms.info for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important information.