Therapist offers tips for seasonal depression


With winter well underway, so is the potential for young adults to develop seasonal depression. Each year, seasonal depression affects around 5 percent of adults in the U.S., according to Sarah Longe, a behavioral health therapist with IU Health.

CIF HEALTH 0131 Depression

“Typically, seasonal depression begins between the ages of 18 to 30,” Longe said. “Between seasonal and regular depression, it just depends on when the episodes happen. For people with regular depression, the seasonal aspect of depression can be part of it. However, seasonal depression isn’t typically diagnosed as regular depression.”

Symptoms of seasonal depression are similar to “regular depression,” Longe said. Symptoms such as reclusion, lack of interest and general sadness that interferes with everyday life are tell-tale signs of depression. The difference between seasonal and “regular” depression is that the seasonal variation occurs through winter.

“January and February tend to be the most difficult months for people,” Longe said. “There’s less sunlight, the days are gray, and it gets dark by 5:30 (p.m.). That can be rough for most people. I also think the excitement of the holidays is over, so there’s that post-holiday crash. Plus, it’s cold, so people tend to stay indoors and are less active.”

A range of products, from artificial sunlight lamps to health supplements, can help as prevention tools. Longe recommends the former based on feedback from her patients.

“There’s light therapy, which you can get one that’s called HappyLight on Amazon,” Longe said. “It projects bright, indirect light in a room, and it’s recommended that you do that for 20 to 30 minutes every day. I have patients that swear by it.”

Longe also recommends that seasonal depression sufferers settle into a healthy daily routine.

“A good diet and exercise can help, too,” Longe said. “Really, connecting to others is a great way to fight against seasonal depression. That’s something I’ll do with patients is talk about what they’ll be doing during the months and what they’re looking forward to – hobbies to do, friends to see.”

For those whose depression is worsened by the season, Longe advises finding a therapist and keeping the suicide hotline number, 988, on hand.

“If you’re struggling, find a good therapist, if needed,” Longe said. “You can find a list of providers on your insurance company’s website. And if you’re having thoughts of harming yourself, there’s also a crisis line by dialing 988.”

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