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Springtime Blues Or Clinical Depression? How To Tell The Difference


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Springtime Blues.

As the seasons change and spring emerges, many people experience a shift in mood. While some may feel rejuvenated and energized by the warmer weather and longer days, others may struggle with feelings of sadness, lack of energy, or low mood. But are these seasonal “springtime blues” a sign of a mental health condition like depression? In this article, we explore the differences and offer insights into effective treatments, including transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), for anyone experiencing depression during the spring season.

Are you a candidate for TMS?

Understanding Springtime Depression

Springtime depression, often colloquially referred to as “springtime blues,” can be considered a type of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In SAD, periods of depression regularly occur during seasonal transitions. While winter SAD is the most common kind, springtime seasonal affective disorder is a real and documented phenomenon. It is normal to have an emotional response to changes in our environment, even the predictable shifts in weather, temperature, and scenery that come with the seasons. However, persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness may indicate a more significant mental health concern, such as depression or SAD. 

Symptoms Of Springtime Depression

The symptoms of springtime depression may overlap with those of major depressive disorder (MDD) or SAD and may include:

If you experience one or more of these symptoms regularly around the onset of spring, then you may have a case of springtime SAD.

Causes Of Springtime Depression

Several factors may contribute to springtime depression, including:

  • Seasonal changes: Shifts in daylight, temperature, and outdoor activities can impact mood regulation and energy levels. These environmental changes can lead to disturbed sleeping patterns, which disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm (your internal clock) and affect our mental state. In the shift from winter to spring, increased heat and humidity can play a factor in triggering depressive symptoms (1).
  • Allergies: Springtime allergies can exacerbate symptoms of depression or trigger mood disturbances. Research has shown a link between high pollen levels in the environment and mood dysregulation (2,3,4).
  • Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly in women, may influence mood during the spring months.
  • Social factors: Increased social expectations and pressure to engage in outdoor activities or social events can contribute to feelings of inadequacy or isolation, exacerbating body image issues or social anxiety.

Recommended Treatments For Springtime Depression

Several treatments are available for springtime depression, including:

  • Psychotherapy: Counseling sessions with a therapist can help individuals explore and address underlying issues contributing to their depression, develop coping strategies, and improve mood regulation.
  • Light therapy: Light therapy, or phototherapy, involves exposure to bright light, which helps to regulate circadian rhythms and improve the patient’s mood. It can be particularly beneficial when combined with talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (5).
  • Medication: Antidepressant medications may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms of depression and stabilize mood. However, because these drugs vary in efficacy and side effects, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate medication and dosage.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): TMS therapy is a drug-free treatment option for people with springtime depression (or other types of depression and mood disorders). TMS is covered by insurance in many cases for patients who have not found success with traditional medications. Because of its lasting effect, many patients find that TMS costs less than antidepressants in the long term.
Are you ready to try TMS?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) For Springtime Depression

For individuals experiencing treatment-resistant depression, including springtime depression, TMS offers a non-invasive and FDA-approved treatment option. TMS therapy uses a helmet-like device to gently stimulate specific areas of the brain using magnetic pulses. These pulses stimulate the brain regions that are connected with mood regulation, stabilizing the brain’s chemical balance and providing long-lasting relief.

Studies have consistently affirmed the efficacy of TMS in reducing depressive symptoms and improving overall mood in patients with depression, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

TMS therapy reviews in 2023 by patients also affirm that it is well-tolerated, with only a small portion of individuals experiencing mild side effects such as temporary headache or scalp irritation.

Get Help For SAD At Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry

If you or someone you know is struggling with springtime depression or SAD, it is important to seek professional help as early as possible. Madison Avenue TMS and Psychiatry offers medication management services and TMS therapy for individuals experiencing depression, seasonal or otherwise. Contact us online today or call (212) 731-2033 to schedule a consultation and explore how we can help you beat the springtime blues and maintain good mental health all year round.

More resources on depression and seasonal depression:


Resources:

  1. Lõhmus M. Possible biological mechanisms linking mental health and heat—a contemplative review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(7):1515. Link. Accessed March 18, 2024.
  2. Manalai P, Hamilton RG, Langenberg P, et al. Pollen-specific immunoglobulin E positivity is associated with worsening of depression scores in bipolar disorder patients during high pollen season. Bipolar Disord. 2012;14(1):90-98. Link. Accessed March 18, 2024.
  3. Guzman A, Tonelli L H, Roberts D, Stiller JW, Jackson, MA, Soriano, JJ, Yousufi S, Rohan KJ, Komarow H, & Postolache TT. Mood-worsening with high-pollen-counts and seasonality: A preliminary report. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2007;101(1-3), 269-274. Link. Accessed March 18, 2024.
  4. Postolache TT, Langenberg P, Zimmerman SA, Lapidus M, Komarow H, McDonald JS, Furst N, Dzhanashvili N, Scrandis D, Bai J, Postolache B, Soriano JJ, Vittone B, Guzman A, Woo JM, Stiller J, Hamilton RG, Tonelli LH. Changes in Severity of Allergy and Anxiety Symptoms Are Positively Correlated in Patients with Recurrent Mood Disorders Who Are Exposed to Seasonal Peaks of Aeroallergens. Int J Child Health Hum Dev. 2008;1(3):313-322. Link. Accessed March 18, 2024.
  5. Rohan KJ, Roecklein KA, Tierney Lindsey K, Johnson, LG, Lippy RD, Lacy TJ, & Barton FB. A randomized controlled trial of cognitive-behavioral therapy, light therapy, and their combination for seasonal affective disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 2007;75(3), 489–500. Link. Accessed March 18, 2024.
Dr. David Woo

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.


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