An estimated 16 million American adults—almost 7% of the population—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. People of all ages, racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds experience depression, but it does affect some groups more than others. Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression, and young adults aged 18–25 are 60% more likely to have depression than people aged 50 or older.
As the days are getting shorter, watch for depression in the form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Often also called winter blues, Seasonal Affective Disorder affects millions of people who exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time hear year, most commonly in the winter.
Watch for These Symptoms
Depression can present different symptoms, depending on the person. But for most people, depressive disorder changes how they function day-to-day, and typically for more than two weeks. Common symptoms include:
- Changes in sleep
- Changes in appetite
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of energy
- Lack of interest in activities
- Hopelessness or guilty thoughts
- Changes in movement (less activity or agitation)
- Physical aches and pains
- Suicidal thoughts
Talk to your doctor if you are feeling sad for long periods of time. They can refer you to a mental health specialist. If your feelings of sadness during the holidays are accompanied by suicidal thoughts, do one of the following immediately:
- Call 911.
- Go immediately to a hospital emergency room.
- Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Counteracting Seasonal Affective Disorder
Here are a few things that may help:
- Therapy lights, also known as phototherapy, trick the brain into increasing serotonin production. It might sound crazy, but it often does work.
- Taking a Vitamin D supplement is also advised to replace what we lose from less exposure to sunlight.
- Work it out. Hit the gym and get those endorphins flowing. It can be an instant mood booster.
- Socialize! Make the effort to see friends. I know it’s hard to move from a horizontal position on the couch, but you’ll feel better once you’re in the company of other people. Carrie McGath recommends scheduling monthly game nights or movie nights with potlucks. “Nothing like the comfort of a bowl of chili, some hot boozy drinks and some warm cookies to complement a game of Cards Against Humanity or a themed movie viewing.” Kate Shepherd seconds movie watching, but getting into the theater instead. “Not only is it award season, so the movies are better, but it takes your mind off of the cold for a few hours”.