The shorter sunlight hour and colder weather of winter can push anyone feel down, especially if you beside a way long from the equator. The increased shade, warmth and the color of winter can make you feel melancholy, irritable or tired. Butif these feelings keep on hitting your mood every year on the same period of time and, turn it harder to perform the routine in winter month. Then the chances are that you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is also address as winter blues and winter depression. They are mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout the year may experience depressive symptoms at the same time each year, mostly in between the month of December to February. SAD has its seasonal pattern, it is a type of depression that comes and goes after a particular season. SAD is counted as winter depression as its symptoms starts turning sever during December, January, February.
Most of us are affected by the change in weather. But the SADwill have significant impact on your day to day life. As its greater effect on your mood and energy level will lead you towards the depression which will make you lazier and irritable.
1% to 2% of the population is affected by SAD which particularly has women and younger people, while the milder may affect 10 to 20 percent of people from winter blues. Since the amount of light you receive in winters changes the farther you are from the equator. No matter how shorter the day light and colder the winters are, the not to worry part is that unlike other forms of depression SAD is treatable. The more you know about the seasonal depression the more you’ll understand about the precautions that what to take when to take and where to take. SAD is distinguished from depression by the lessening of symptoms in the spring and summer. The survey says that every year there is a fall in case of summer as compare to winter.
As with the depression, the seriousness of the SAD symptoms may go different from person to person depending upon the genetic vulnerability and geographic location. For some people symptoms are mildly at the beginninggets increasingly worse with darkest days of winter. SAD patients spend over 40% of the year struggling with depression symptoms during most of the year.
YOUR GENDER: The 3 out of 4 who suffer SAD are women; men often have chances to experience more severe symptoms
YOUR FAMILY HISTORY: The amount of risk rises depending upon the family member who’ve experienced SAD or any other type of depression.
YOUR AGE: SAD is mostly diagnosed in the people falling under the age group of 18 to 55, the chances of having SAD after 55 decreases gradually in most of the cases.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF SEASONAL DEPRESSION
- Being stressed or anxious, feeling angry, irritations
- Unexplained aches and pains.
- Changes in sleeping pattern.
- Low self-esteem, Depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling sadness and hopelessness, despair and grumpy
- Fatigue and lack of energy, reduced sex drive
- Use of drug or alcohol for comfort
- Appetite and weight changes
- Difficulty in concentrating
If some of these feelings seem to happen each year and disturb your day-to-day life and improves during certain season, then you are most probably suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
CAUSES OF SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER
The reasons behind the SAD aren’t clear. Experts have not yet concluded that what exactly causes SAD. But the sum up of the research says that it may be caused due to lack of sunlight, as lack of light may affect the human body in many ways. Hence one of them is SAD.
- The early dark in winter season may disturb you “biological clock” which controls your circadian rhythms like sleep-wake many other.
- Lack of light causes problems with serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood.
DIAGNOSIS OF SAD
Sometimes it can be a tough task to find out the difference between SAD and all the other types of depression, as many of the symptoms are exactly same. To diagnose SAD few things will help you to conclude the result.
- If you have been depressed during a particular season and have turned better when the season changed for at least couple of years in a row.
- If you have symptoms that mostly occur during SAD, like being hungry all the time especially for the carbohydrates, gaining weight, disturbance in “biological clock”.
- If any of your blood relation has ever had SAD.
Then you may need to look ahead to have a blood test to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as hypothyroidism (low thyroid). You may need to see your doctor for the mental health assessment.
TIPS FOR SELF-HELP
TAKE SUN BATH AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Increase the amount of natural light in your routine as the daylight has been proved a key remedy for winter SAD. Hence whenever possible just expose yourself to the sun, take walk outdoors, if you can stay warm enough. Increasing the source of sunlight at your workplace as well as at the home can also help you feel way better.
REGULAR EXERCISE CAN BE AN EFFECTIVE MEDICINE
Plan your work out under, the sunlight this will help you in fighting with seasonal depression and balancing your time as well. Regular exercise is a powerful medicine as it can boost serotonin, endorphins, and other brain chemicals which decide your mood. In fact, regularity in your exercise can also help to improve your circadian rhythm and self-esteem.
INTERACT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Reducing isolation should be the very first thing and close relationships are always the best option to ask a help from, rather let them help you in whichever way they are trying indulge yourself in the all-new activities even if you don’t feel like, give time to your mind for boosting up. Join support-group for depression because sometimes speaking your heart out can help you way more than medicines. And importantly motivate yourself to adapt changes in life.
BALANCED DIET THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Eating the right diet can help you in keeping your energy up and minimize your mood swings as the symptoms of SAD makes you run after the sugary food and simple carbohydrates, like white bread pasta complex carbohydrate are better choices as they will avoid sugar crash and can subsequently boost your mood.
LEARN TO DEAL WITH STRESS
Find out the issues that stress you out and make plans to minimize their impact and clear them out. Solve the misunderstandings, let go the grudges and let you mind relax and embrace the fresh thoughts.
With input from Dr. Sanju Gambhir, Psychiatrist, Primus Super Specialty Hospital.