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Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Rebecca V. Bullion, LCSW

We often hear the phrase “it’s that time of year” when we talk about a health issue like the flu. Well, it’s that time of year for seasonal depression as well. Often lasting from the fall months through early spring, seasonal blues last for almost a full six months.

Each year five percent of Americans experience a Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression. The cause for SAD remains poorly understood, one simple explanation for SAD is that the regular circadian rhythms are interrupted because of a lack of sunlight. That light causes melatonin, a hormone, to be emitted in the brain when it hits the eyes. This melatonin then produces a release of serotonin; the “feel good factor” hormone in the brain. Less light causes a decrease in circulation of melatonin and serotonin, changing one’s alertness and mood.

SAD can cause depression ranging from mild to debilitating for months at a time. Some of the symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) are the same for other types of depression, and can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Decline of pleasure from activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Poor sleep
  • Appetite changes
  • Fluctuation in weight
  • Social isolation

Often with any depression, the longer it goes on untreated, the worse it becomes. It can be difficult to determine if the symptoms are due to a major depressive disorder, or merely seasonal blues, as the symptoms are the same.  SAD can cause depression ranging from mild to debilitating for months at a time. If there are any other co-occurring mood problems or coping deficits, the effects of SAD can become even worse.

SAD is treatable, often with light therapy, outdoor activity, psychotherapy, and sometimes with medication. Psychotherapy techniques focusing on the “here and now” are very helpful in supporting those suffering. Moving into a workable and committed action helps to reclaim what they are losing in their life because of the SAD. Treatment models such as Pasadena Villa’s Social Integration ModelTM help individuals reconnect and re-establish control over the downward spiral in functioning.  At Pasadena Villa, social integration allows the clinical team to observe and interact with residents as they engage in the community in recreational, social, and life strategy activities. This interaction involvement ensures the accuracy and effectiveness of customized treatment plans and helps the residents, and they assimilate back into everyday life.

If you think that you or a loved one may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder or other types of depression, please contact Pasadena Villa for help in reclaiming what has been lost.

If you think that you or a loved one may be struggling with a mental health disorder, Pasadena Villa can help. We are here to answer questions and connect to care. Pasadena Villa currently offers treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee, and outpatient services in Cary, North Carolina. To learn more about our program, call us at
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