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Seasonal changes and depressive mood

09-20 | DTC Team

Seasonal changes and depressive mood

“I hate winters; the dark, desolate evenings make me feel so gloomy.” Many people tend to harbour such feelings on the arrival of winters. They may feel their energy dipping, mood fluctuating and hopes dwindling. Changing weather has a significant impact on people’s emotions and thoughts, a condition akin to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is often linked to lack of sunlight exposure that causes an imbalance in people’s circadian rhythms. The symptoms are similar to non-seasonal depression, such as loss of interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past, difficulty concentrating and excessive fatigue.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), about 5 percent of American adults suffer from SAD and its effects last for about 40 percent of the year. The symptoms are more commonly visible in women than in men. SAD is often generalised with “winter blues,” feeling of unhappiness associated with cold temperature and darkness, but SAD symptoms are more serious. People living at higher altitudes where days are shorter are also prone to experiencing the problem.

Causes, symptoms and treatment

Though there are no well-defined researches to precisely pinpoint at the factors that cause SAD, the most common explanation links it to an imbalance in brain chemicals, such as serotonin. The other explanation links SAD with excess melatonin that’s out of sync with sleep-wake signals. Depending on the severity of the condition, the symptoms that one should look out for are as follows:

  • feeling of sadness or low mood
  • loss of interest in daily activities or hobbies
  • change in appetite, overeating due to cravings for carbohydrates
  • change in sleeping pattern, usually sleeping more
  • restlessness or slowed movement and speech
  • difficulty in social and personal interactions
  • low self-worth and confidence
  • lack of concentration
  • suicidal thoughts or attempts

The treatment for SAD include antidepressants, light therapy, talk therapy, nutritional supplements and counselling, or a combination of these. Light therapy requires a person to sit in front of the light box or wear light visor for a certain period of time during the day until signs of reduced symptoms and increased energy level are observed or enough daylight is available. If this form of therapy does not improve the symptoms within a few days, then medication and other behavioral therapies are introduced.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) observes another condition known as reverse SAD, which affects about one tenth of total SAD cases. The symptoms of this disorder do not surface during the winter months but affect people in summer where high temperature forces them to visit cooler climates. Such people suffer from insomnia, decreased appetite, weight loss and anxiety. In some individuals, both the conditions might prevail.

Mental disorders are treatable with timely intervention

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders and also one of the most difficult to deal with, considering the fact that most people are unaware about the symptoms and those who know, shy away from seeking support. If left untreated, mental illnesses can lead to physical complications and can affect not just those suffering but also their families and friends. An aggravated mental health condition can cause untimely death too. But depression is a treatable disorder through medication and therapies administered by professional health care providers. It is important to consult a psychiatrist in time.

If you or your loved one is suffering from any depressive disorder, the Depression Treatment Helpline of Colorado can connect you to the best depression treatment centers in Colorado where recovery is facilitated in a comfortable environment under trained therapists. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-427-5668 or chat online for more information.

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