Understanding, Recognizing, and Managing Seasonal Depression

by Dec 4, 2023

Many of us find ourselves affected by the changing seasons in a way that goes beyond preferring cozy sweaters and warm drinks. For some, the arrival of winter heralds a shift in mood and energy, a phenomenon often known as Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Seasonal depression is more than just a case of the ‘winter blues’ or a fleeting sense of melancholy.

Let’s explore what seasonal depression really is, how to recognize its often subtle signs, and most importantly, how to manage and cope with it effectively. Whether you’re someone who faces this challenge personally or you know someone who does, our journey through understanding, recognizing, and managing seasonal depression is a step towards feeling lighter in the darker months.

What Is Seasonal Depression?

Seasonal depression is one of many different types of depression. As the name implies, it’s a type of depression that is caused by the changes in different seasons. Seasonal depression usually starts and ends around the same time each year. For most individuals, seasonal depression begins to form in the fall or winter months, but it can also occur during spring and summer too. In this post, we’ll focus on winter seasonal depression.

The Cause

One of the main suspected causes in seasonal depression during winter months comes down to a lack of sunlight. As the days get shorter, there’s less sunlight available for us to take in, which can upset your body’s natural systems including:

Your Biological Clock

Your body’s natural clock may be a cause for seasonal depression. This is believed to be a contributing factor because, during the fall and winter months, sunlight is significantly reduced and impacted. This can have a major impact on your body’s biological clock (or circadian rhythm), which is responsible for things like alertness, appetite, and body temperature.


Serotonin is a chemical in the brain which affects mood and sleep. It’s tied to the sleep hormone melatonin (more on that below) because your body first needs enough serotonin in order to produce adequate levels of melatonin. The drop in sunlight during winter months can disrupt serotonin levels, which can bring on signs and symptoms of depression and lead to low mood and sleep troubles.


One of melatonin’s main roles is to help regulate the your sleep patterns. The change in light during the day can negatively impact melatonin levels in your body, which can disrupt your sleep pattern. Sleep troubles tend to play a big role in in depression, contributing to low mood and fatigue.

While these are all factors that can contribute to seasonal depression, there are other risk factors that should be considered such as family history, other mental health issues, distance from the equator, and vitamin D levels.

The Signs and Symptoms

Seasonal depression shares a lot of the same signs and symptoms as other forms of depression. These include:

  • A persistent sense of sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Low energy
  • Overeating and weight gain
  • Sleep problems
  • Suicidal ideation

Next Steps

It’s completely normal to feel down every now and then. There are a lot of different emotions and feelings that someone can experience during a typical day.

While being sad from time to time is normal, if you notice these feelings are lasting more than two weeks or having a negative impact on your daily life and routine, it may be time to seek additional support. One of the best forms of treatment is reaching out to a therapist.

Remember, you’re not alone if you’re experiencing seasonal depression. Reach out to us today to get support.

Click here for more information on depression therapy.