Depression in Seattle (Why & how?)

In this blog post, we will understand depression in Seattle in detail. We will analyze the rate of depression in Seattle, what Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is, seasonal depression in Seattle, and how to manage winter depression. 

Is there Depression in Seattle?

The NIMH reported that every year more than 5% of adults in the U.S. experience major depressive disorder. This figure could be higher as people often do not report their mental condition due to the stigma surrounding mental health in society. However, remember that it is okay not to feel okay and to take help. Depression is one of the most common psychological issues worldwide.

In the city of Seattle, the rate of major depressive disorder is not as high. However, in Seattle, a common depressive disorder is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is a type of depression that is associated with seasonal changes. In Seattle, the lower levels of daylight during autumn and winter could cause this depression condition.  

Yes, living somewhere can make you depressed.

Before understanding more about depression in Seattle, let us know what SAD is.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) 

Symptoms

SAD symptoms tend to begin during late fall and the starting of winters. They then subside during spring and summer when the days are sunnier. Occasionally, the opposite happens. In both cases, the symptoms begin with mild- or moderate-intensity before getting severe as the season progresses. Following is the list of SAD symptoms: 

  • Prolonged periods of depressed mood;
  • Decreased interest to engage in activities from which they used to derive happiness;
  • Appetite changes;
  • Lack of energy;
  • Sense of hopelessness, worthlessness;
  • Excessive guilt;
  • Loss or gain of weight;
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep difficulties;
  • Irritable or agitated;
  • Thoughts of or attempts at self-harm or suicide.

Fall and Winter SAD

Winter-onset SAD, also known as winter depression, have the following symptoms:

  • Excessive sleeping;
  • Weight gain;
  • Fatigue or lack of energy;
  • Appetite changes (e.g., craving foods rich in carbohydrates).

Spring and Summer SAD

Summer-onset SAD, also known as summer depression, have symptoms like:

  • Poor appetite;
  • Loss of weight;
  • Agitation or anxiety;
  • Insomnia, or trouble sleeping.

Seasonal Changes and Bipolar Disorder

For some people with bipolar disorder, spring and summer can trigger manic or hypomanic symptoms, while winter and fall can trigger depressive symptoms. 

Should You See a Professional?

If you experience profound sadness or a depressed mood for a few weeks together and do not enjoy engaging in previously enticing activities, consult a professional. It is even more important to see a doctor if your sleep and appetite habits have changed or experience feelings of hopelessness or suicidal thoughts. 

Seasonal Depression in Seattle

Nearly 10% of people in Seattle suffer from severe winter depression due to a lack of sunlight in winter and fall. 

Every year, right before winter, there is a warning about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in Seattle. Winter depression occurs in response to the shorter, darker days of winter. People refer to it as the dreaded “winter blues.” There is a buzz about this disorder before winter, wherein local news channels cover it, and friends and family inevitably talk about it. 

Speculations for SAD in Seattle come from the city’s reputation of being incredibly wet and one of the northernmost American towns. The publicity that the disorder has gained is evident in several ways. For instance, some centers offer light therapy, and there is an overload of information regarding weather and rain in Seattle on multiple online forums. 

Further, one critical study shows no significant relationship between seasons, light, and depression despite the speculations mentioned above. Instead, it hypothesized that other factors, such as cultural expectations and stress surrounding holidays, could trigger depression. 

Another study reported that depression during winter could be incidental. The researchers found a stable prevalence of depression in relation to latitudes, sunlight exposure, and seasons. Studies like these shake the foundation for SAD.

Instead of winter being the cause of depression, it can be hypothesized that those activities that improve people’s moods may be more challenging to carry out in winter. It is essential to find the exact cause of depression as treatment based on inaccurate grounds could hinder long-term recovery.  

If the association is unclear, is it necessary to get lightbox therapy? Interestingly, light therapy seems to be effective in treating not just winter depression but also depression in general, bulimia nervosa, and even sleep disorders. 

Although seasonal affective disorder may still be debatable, winters in Seattle entails other health challenges. One of these challenges includes insufficient exposure to vitamin D as the sun does not get high enough for people to receive natural vitamin D. Inadequate levels of vitamin D is associated with many difficulties, including depression. 

How to Manage Depression in Seattle

There are several ways to manage depression in Seattle, including:

  • Light Therapy;
  • Medication;
  • Psychotherapy;
  • Exposure to the Sun;
  • Reset Your Biological Clock;
  • Minimize Use of Devices;
  • Nutritious Diet;
  • Sensory Stimulation; and
  • Exercise

Light Therapy

As we have mentioned above, light therapy is the first-line treatment for people with mild to moderate winter depression. It is often used as an adjunct to medications. It tries to replicate the effects of natural daylight in your body.

You sit in several inches from a specially designed light box above eye-level every morning for about a half-hour. The equipment’s fluorescent bulbs emit a calculated level of white light, which is much brighter than usual lights. This light shines into your eyes. 

The most effective device emits ten thousand lux compared to 250 lux emitted by indoor lighting (lux is the measurement unit that calculates illumination). 

You can engage in any activity, like reading or working while using the box. Most people with winter depression experience an improvement in symptoms within the first few weeks. This therapy must be done every day until mid-spring. 

It is generally safe to use light therapy, but it could cause eyestrain, headache, nausea, and even insomnia when performed inappropriately. 

Another form of light therapy uses a dawn simulator, which emits low levels of light at dawn. The room is brightened gradually over 30-90 minutes for you to wake up and reset your biological clock. These are sometimes used in combination with a lightbox.

Medication 

Medically, the first-line treatment for winter depression is a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). They are used in combination with light therapy. 

An atypical depressant known as Wellbutrin (common name, bupropion) is also known to be beneficial for winter depression. It has the added benefit of no weight gain or sexual dysfunction, which are two side-effects commonly seen in SSRIs.

The common side-effects of antidepressants are diarrhea, insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, and ringing in the ears. Based on severity, antidepressants may be prescribed for the entire year or tapered/discontinued during spring and summer before resuming during fall and winter.  

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is beneficial for the treatment of depression in general. So if you are living in Seattle and experience winter depression, seek professional help. 

The mental health practitioner would typically make use of short-term cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It helps alter negative ways of thinking, which in turn, alters behaviors and mood and is commonly used in combination with antidepressants and light therapy. 

Exposure to the Sun

optimize your exposure to the sun. Take walks in the outdoors or even during cloudy days, make sure there is sufficient bright light in your house, and sit near open spaces, especially on sunny days. 

Reset Your Biological Clock

Reset your biological clock in a way that allows you to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. 

Minimize use of Devices

Despite being useful, our electronic gadgets emit a lot of blue light. Exposure to blue light disallows us to go to sleep and get in a good night’s rest. Minimize such exposure from computers, television screens, and electronic devices at least a couple of hours before bedtime.

Nutritious Diet

Eat complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Make sure you also eat plenty of protein-rich foods. 

Drink St. John’s Wort Tea

St. John’s Wort is a herbal supplement and is known to have antidepressant properties and could be useful in treating mild to moderate depression, but not severe depression. It can be consumed in the form of a liquid or capsules, and the dried herb can be used in tea.  

Sensory Stimulation

Surround yourself with bright colors (e.g., red, yellow, orange) or calming colors (e.g., blue, green, purple) known to improve your mood. It can be painting your bedroom walls, coloring your nails, or wearing clothes of these colors. Lighting fragrant candles can also be soothing.  

Exercise

Although it can be challenging to get out of bed on dark days, try to keep active and exercise regularly. It need not be anything intense. Anything that helps you break a sweat, such as walking, swimming indoors, or doing some light yoga or pilates. Exercise is a natural way to get a surge of endorphins, which are brain chemicals that boost your mood.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Conclusion

In this blog post, we understood depression in Seattle. We analyzed the depression rates in Seattle, what Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is, seasonal depression in Seattle, and how to manage winter depression. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Depression in Seattle

Can living in Seattle be depressing?

Seattle, also known as the Emerald City, is known to have the second-most depressing winters. It can be extraordinarily gloomy and has decreased daylight during winter months.

Can the weather in Seattle lead to depression?

Yes, the weather in Seattle could lead to depression in almost 10% of people due to the minimal sunlight during winter months.

How gloomy is Seattle?

Seattle was rated the gloomiest place in the U.S due to its weather conditions, especially in winter. 

Which is the most depressing city in the U.S.?

Gary, Indiana, is the most depressing city in the U.S. Only a little more than 50% of the population is employed. In contrast, more than one-third of the population is poverty-stricken. A close second is Port Arthur, Texas. This city is followed by Detroit, Passaic, and Newark.

Is it nice to live in Seattle?

Yes, it is nice to live in Seattle. Lush green forests surround it, it is an environmentally friendly place, and the residents are employed and earn above-average incomes.

How expensive is it to live in Seattle as compared to Boston?

Seattle is less expensive to live in as compared to Boston by 10%. You would have to earn an average of $50,000 to maintain your living standards/ 

Which country is the happiest?

Following is a list of countries that are the happiest:

Finland
Denmark
Norway
Iceland
The Netherlands
Switzerland
Sweden
New Zealand

What we recommend for depression

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

References

https://pacificnorthwell.com/depression-in-seattle/

http://www.dailyuw.com/opinion/article_16aa3a40-1a0b-11e9-92c8-a7b3534c8a8e.html

https://www.healthandwellnessalerts.berkeley.edu/blog/how-to-cope-with-winter-depression/

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Sara Quitlag is an Applied Psychologist, with a deep interest in psychopathology and neuropsychology and how psychology impacts and permeates every aspect of our environment. She has worked in Clinical settings (as Special Ed. Counselor, CBT Therapist) and has contributed at local Universities as a Faculty member from time to time. She has a graduate degree in English Literature and feels very connected to how literature and psychology interact. She feels accountable and passionate about making a "QUALITY" contribution to the overall global reform and well-being. She actively seeks out opportunities where she can spread awareness and make a positive difference across the globe for the welfare of our global society.