Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is associated with the change in season. People with this disorder usually start experiencing these symptoms at the same time every year. Generally, the symptoms of this disorder start either in fall or winter and end in spring or early summer. Sometimes, one might experience a rare form of this disorder called ‘Summer Depression’ that begins in late spring or early summer and ends in fall. Rather than ignoring the symptoms of seasonal depression as ‘winter blues’ you must take steps in improving your mood to help you go through the entire winter season.
Let us discuss the causes of Seasonal Depression and the methods to treat them in this digital health platform India.
Causes of Seasonal Depression
Though the exact causes of Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder are not known, however, certain factors are perceived to play an important role in the development of this disorder. These factors are discussed in the following section of this digital portal.
Circadian rhythm: Circadian rhythm is a natural and internal process that manages your sleep-wake cycle and repeats every 24 hours. Owing to the decreased level of sunlight during fall and winter, your body’s internal clock might get disrupted and causes you to feel depressed.
Melatonin levels – Melatonin is a hormone responsible for managing your sleep patterns. A change in season might affect the balance of melatonin levels in the body and the reduced levels of this hormone may be responsible for making you feel low.
Serotonin – Serotonin Transporter or SERT protein carries serotonin, a neurotransmitter from the brain to the nerve cells, where they are inactive. The higher activity level of SERT implies the lower activity of serotonin. The SERT levels increase during the long nights in winter, which reduces the active serotonin levels. This, in turn, may affect the mood and cause seasonal depression.
The symptoms of seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder might start in the mild form but gradually turns severe as the season progresses. This section of the online health portal discusses the symptoms associated with this disorder
Feeling of depression almost every day
Experiencing low levels of energy
Losing interest in the things that the effected person use to enjoy previously
Experiencing changes in appetite
Lack of concentration
SAD during fall or winter
Symptoms that are specifically associated with winter SAD are
Craving for carbohydrate-rich foods
Only symptoms are not sufficient in diagnosing Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is because many other health conditions can also share similar symptoms. A mental healthcare expert might conduct a physical examination along with a psychological evaluation to understand whether you are suffering from SAD.
Once they confirm that you are suffering from this order, they would administer the following methods of treatment. It is also important to note, that you must mention any pre-existing health or mental health condition to your physicians for determining the most suitable form of treatment.
The light therapy also called phototherapy is one of the first-line treatments administered to relieve the symptoms of seasonal depression. In this form of therapy, you will be required to sit or work a few feet away from a special lightbox. This lightbox provides artificial light that mimics the natural outdoor light. This therapy causes a change in the brain chemicals that are associated with one’s mood.
This therapy, generally, starts working within a few days to a few weeks. Though research on this therapy is limited, however, it has been found to show a positive result in people suffering from SAD by relieving their symptoms.
Before purchasing a lightbox and using them you must consult your physician regarding the same. You must gather as much information as possible regarding the features and effects of this device so that you can make the most of your investment. Also, follow your doctor’s advice regarding the right time to use this device.
Changes in lifestyle
You can also implement the following changes in your lifestyle to deal with Seasonal Depression.
Change the indoor environment
You should open the bind of your room, cut the branches of trees that are blocking the sun rays from entering your room or if possible, add skylights in your home. Besides, you can also try and sit near windows while working at home or office. In other words, try to get as much natural light as possible in winter.
Spend some time outdoor
Whether by taking long walks, or eating out during lunch hours or sitting in the parks, you can soak as much sun rays as possible. It is advised to spend some time outdoors within two hours after getting up in the morning. This can elevate your mood significantly.
Exercising regularly can not only help you to stay fit but also make you feel good about yourself. The ideal way to deal with seasonal depression is to carry out activities that can help in improving your mood.
If someone is experiencing severe symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, sometime antidepressant therapy might be administered. Bupropion XL is the only FDA approved medication used to prevent major episodes of depression in people suffering from SAD.
Your healthcare service providers might recommend you to start your treatment before the beginning of your symptoms every year. They might advise on consuming the medication even after your symptoms disappear.
You should remember that benefits from consuming anti-depressants might take time to reveal themselves. Besides, you might need to try different antidepressant medications to find out the most suitable one for you and that causes the least side effects.
Another treatment option used to treat patients with SAD is psychotherapy or talk therapy. There are various forms of psychotherapy used to treat different types of mental illnesses. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy may help patients with SAD. They
Helps in identifying thoughts and behavior responsible for making the affected person feel low about them
Help the affected person in coping with symptoms of SAD through activities
Help the person with SAD in managing stress
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