Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - Winter Blues

by Krishna Bora on  December 31, 2012 at 11:47 AM Health In Focus
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Do you feel depressed on the onset of every winter? Maybe you are suffering from SAD.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - Winter Blues
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that triggers only at a certain time of the year. In other words, it is known as "Winter Blues" as it usually occurs in winters. Women are more susceptible to such sadness; other victims can vary from teenagers to adults.

Symptoms start to build up from late autumn and continue through the winter months. However, they are not different from the common symptoms that are usually seen in other forms of depression. Hopelessness, increase in appetite as well as weight, increased or decreased amount of sleep, decrease in concentration and energy, loss of interest in work and activities, social withdrawal, sadness and irritability, and crying are some of the common symptoms of SAD. In serious cases, the patient might develop intentions of suicide, long-term depression or even bipolar disorders.

Although studies could not definitely establish the association between sunlight and development of SAD, it is believed that sunlight helps to boost the production of serotonin in our body, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for the happy and cheerful feeling. Most people feel happy and energetic when the sun is shining, but in winters when the days are shorter and nights are longer, some of them tend to feel less enthusiastic, depressed, and they tend to stay indoors and cut themselves from friends and family. And most importantly, they start binging on food. The quality and quantity of light is believed to be one of the reasons for such depression.

So, don't ignore it when you observe such mood swings and sadness in you or anyone else amongst your friends and family. Try to talk to the person or take help from health care provider to rule out other disorders similar to SAD. A simple physical and a blood test would take care of that.

As regards treatment, talk therapy and anti-depressant medications are the best ways to control SAD. Talking about feelings and being around people who are caring and have positive attitude magically alleviates depression. At home, one can try getting enough sleep, eat healthy food and learn to watch the early signs of depression. Exercise also helps to keep SAD at bay. Try involving in hobbies and activities that keeps you happy. It is important to practice good sleeping habits to prevent depression of any kind and keep yourself active and alert.

Alcohol and illegal drugs are bound to make depression worse, and might also develop intentions of suicide in the person. Talking about feelings and being around people who are caring and positive magically cures depression.

Light therapy is another way to cure SAD. In such treatments, the person is imposed to a very bright light (10,000 lux) that mimics the light from sun rays. It works best when if started in the early winters, before the symptoms of SAD begin again. However, there are certain side-effects such as eye strain and headache that come with this therapy. Hence, one should opt for this therapy only when the case is sensitive or when the doctors permits.

Scientists have long ago proved that the short wavelength light (blue) of the white light therapy stimulates acute melatonin suppression and circadian phase shifting, thus effectively treating SAD. In their study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, neurologists from the Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, found that narrow bandwidth blue light is better than red light in reversing symptoms of major depression with a seasonal pattern.

Trials have shown that preventive treatment with bupropion XL reduces the rate of depressive episodes. However, psychiatrists from Lund University Hospital, Sweden, opine - 'Given the limitations in the evidence base and the inconsistent recurrence rate of winter depressive episodes, clinical recommendations for long-term and preventative treatment must individualize treatment choices and weigh potential benefits against possible adverse effects'.

But what you can definitely do is, with the onset of winters, fight depression by being determined to stay positive and happy, as nothing in the world can defeat a strong will and brave heart.

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Source: Medindia

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