Most people are familiar with the signs and symptoms of clinical depression, which can cause persistent negative feelings, fatigue, and other physical problems. But a lesser-known form of the condition is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which arises or becomes more apparent with the change of the seasons. Although some people experience SAD in the spring and summer, for most, the symptoms begin to present in the winter, when the air is colder, the skies are gloomier, and the days become markedly shorter.
Seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression, can be especially jarring because it may feel like your mood rapidly shifts when the seasons change, so preparation is vital. Symptoms are similar to year-round clinical depression and include feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt; difficulty concentrating and making decisions; agitation and restlessness; and loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
There’s also a lot of stigma surrounding the condition because many people tend to write it off as a case of the “winter blues.” It’s important to note, however, that a diagnosis of SAD and other forms of clinical depression means that symptoms typically occur every day and continue for an extended period. Also, the condition is characterized by more than just mood symptoms; SAD also causes low energy, difficulty sleeping, changes in weight and appetite, and unexplained physical problems like headaches or digestive issues.
Just like in the case of most other mood disorders, experts aren’t entirely sure what causes SAD, but theories include changes in serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating everything from mood to digestive function, and irregular serotonin levels have long been considered a possible culprit for many mood and anxiety disorders. The most common type of antidepressant medication, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), treat clinical depression by altering how much serotonin remains available for the brain to use.
Melatonin is a hormone that dictates energy levels and plays an essential role in mood and sleep patterns. When winter approaches in many parts of the world, the days become significantly shorter. When the sun goes down, our bodies automatically release melatonin to signal that it’s time for the body and mind to start winding down and preparing to rest for the night. Although melatonin is a crucial component to getting a good night’s sleep and keeping our bodies and minds regulated, that rapid shift in our biological clock can cause more harm than good.
The seasonal affective disorder is often treated similarly to year-round clinical depression, with a combination of antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. But many people with various forms of clinical depression, including seasonal affective disorder, find that they don’t benefit enough from these traditional treatment options. If you feel like you’ve tried several options and still haven’t found relief, you’re likely suffering from treatment-resistant depression.
Fortunately, there is another option when it comes to the treatment of seasonal treatment-resistant depression. An innovative therapy called TMS therapy, which is short for transcranial magnetic stimulation is a noninvasive outpatient procedure that uses a metal coil placed on the forehead to transmit magnetic pulses into the part of the brain believed to control mood. By stimulating nerve cells in this area, TMS therapy, sometimes in conjunction with other forms of treatment, can provide high levels of relief where other treatment options fall short.
Mindful Health Solutions is a leading provider of transcranial magnetic stimulation in Northern California. Each location employs a team of skilled providers whose primary aim is to develop personalized treatment plans to help patients navigate the difficulties associated with clinical depression and seasonal affective disorder. The locations are fully-equipped to provide solutions for obsessive-compulsive disorder, memory disorders, and pain management.
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