Winter Blues !! Depressed, you might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, check how?

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The epidemic of depression in our times is continually on rise with surfacing of complexities in the nature of disease in different cases. Along these lines, Seasonal Affective Depression (SAD) does need to be talked about. This is the type of depression that generally initiates among patients in late fall or early winter, and goes away in spring or summer. The possibilities of SAD affecting patients in summer are comparatively quite less.

Signs and Symptoms

Seasonal Affective Disorder, not being an altogether different disorder, is actually confirmed when major depression occurs in specific seasons for more than 2 years. Thus SAD has no symptoms varying from those of major depression, which are:
Feelings of,

  • Depression all the day, and mostly on all days
  • - Hopelessness or worthlessness
  •  Disinterest in activities once enjoyable
  • Lethargy and sluggishness, irritation
  • Less concentration and sleep problems
  • Thinking about death or suicide frequently
  • Changes in appetite or body weight

SAD linked with winters has symptoms of:
Weight gain
Increased appetite, weight gain and cravings for carbs
Withdrawal from social interactions

SAD linked with summers has symptoms of:
Decreased appetite and weight loss
Irritation, restlessness or anxiety
Instances of violent behaviour

Risk factors

Following people are more likely to be diagnosed with SAD

  1.  People having depression or bipolar disorder
  2.  People having family history of any kind of depression
  3.  Females
  4. Young adults
  5.  People living far north or far south of equator

Causes of SAD
Exact reasons of Seasonal Affective Disorder are not known, but biological indications have been found by researchers:

Problems in regulating serotonin 

Serotonin is the key neurotransmitter involved in mood, and its protein transporter is increased by 5 per cent in people with SAD during winters. This causes less serotonin to remain at the synapse, hence the imbalance in mood

Increased production of melatonin

Melatonin is increasingly produced in darkness, and since winter days are shorter, people with SAD are more prone to be lethargic, sleepier and with disturbed circadian rhythms. 

Vitamin D insufficiency

Decreased Vitamin D levels are related to significant symptoms of depression. Vitamin D also plays a crucial role in serotonin activity.

Treatments and Therapies

SAD may be treated in following 4 ways:
One may need to try several antidepressants before finding the one that works best for them and without significant side effects. 
Commonly SAD is treated with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which taken with other medicines may cause side effects. Hence patients are advised to consult their doctor before taking the medication. Bupropion may also be used for treating SAD.

Light therapy
Light  therapy involves substitution of diminished sunlight in fall and winter by sitting in front of a light box and getting the requisite 20-60 minutes of exposure to 10,000 lux of cool-white fluorescent light. This therapy has to be followed first thing in the morning, daily till spring.

Psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

CBT-SAD focuses on recognising negative thoughts and substituting them with more positive thoughts along with a technique called behavioral activation. Behavioral activation requires a person to identify activities that he may still find engaging and enjoyable and to perform them regularly. These activities may be indoors bor outdoors, but are done to help the patient cope with winter.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D supplements may not be helpful alone, but may taken to doctor's recommendation with other treatment methods.

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