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What is Seasonal Depression? Know who is at risk, symptoms, treatment and more

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or Seasonal Depression is a type of depression that is characterized by feelings of sadness, lack of energy, and difficulty participating in typical activities. It typically occurs during certain seasons. Some also call it 'winter blues'.

Health Desk Written By: Health Desk New Delhi Published on: December 20, 2022 14:05 IST
Representative image of a man suffering from depression
Image Source : FREEPIK Representative image of a man suffering from depression

Seasonal Depression or Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during certain seasons, usually in the fall and winter. It is characterized by feelings of sadness, lack of energy and difficulty participating in usual activities. While it is more common in young adults and women, anyone can be affected by SAD.

SAD is caused by a combination of factors, including changes in the length of daylight, imbalances in brain chemicals, and hormone imbalances. It is typically treated with a combination of light therapy, talk therapy, and antidepressants. Self-care strategies, such as getting outside and exercising regularly, can also be helpful in managing symptoms of SAD. It is important to seek help if you are experiencing symptoms of SAD, as it can significantly impact your daily life and overall well-being. As per Cleveland Clinic,10-20% of people in the US may have a mild form of the "winter blues".

Causes of SAD; who is at risk

Anyone can be at risk of developing seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but certain factors may increase the likelihood of developing the condition. These include:

  • Age: SAD is more common in young adults and tends to start in the late teenage years or early 20s.
  • Gender: SAD is more common in women than men.
  • Family history: If you have a family history of SAD or other forms of depression, you may be at an increased risk of developing SAD.
  • Living at high latitudes: SAD is more common in people who live at high latitudes, such as in the northern or southern regions of the world. This may be due to the shorter days and longer nights at these latitudes, which can lead to a lack of sunlight during the winter months.
  • Cloudy climate: People who live in regions with a lot of clouds or overcast skies may be at a higher risk of developing SAD due to a lack of sunlight.
  • Previous mental health conditions: If you have a history of other mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, you may be more prone to developing SAD.
  • Change in biological clock due to lack of sunlight
  • Imbalance in brain chemicals such as serotonin and melatonin
  • Hormone imbalances, including low levels of vitamin D

Symptoms of Seasonal Depression

  • Sadness
  • anxiety
  • carbohydrate cravings
  • fatigue
  • hopelessness
  • trouble concentrating
  • irritability
  • heavy limbs
  • loss of interest in activities
  • oversleeping
  • thoughts of death or suicide

Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Light therapy: Also known as phototherapy, light therapy involves exposing the eyes to bright light using a light box or other special light source. It is believed to help regulate the body's internal clock and improve the balance of brain chemicals, such as serotonin and melatonin. Light therapy is usually done in the morning and may be combined with other treatments, such as medication or talk therapy.

Talk therapy: Various forms of talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can be effective in treating SAD. CBT involves working with a therapist to identify negative thoughts and behaviors and replacing them with more positive ones. Other forms of talk therapy, such as interpersonal therapy, can help individuals better understand and manage their relationships and how they contribute to their mood.

Self-care strategies: In addition to professional treatment, there are a number of self-care strategies that can help manage symptoms of SAD. These may include:

  • Getting outside and exposing yourself to natural light, even on cloudy days
  • Engaging in physical activity and exercise, which can help improve mood and reduce stress
  • Practicing healthy habits, such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and managing stress
  • Seeking social support from friends, family, or a support group

It is important to consult with a mental health professional to determine the best treatment plan for your specific needs and circumstances. It is also important to remember that seeking help and treatment is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Disclaimer: The article is for educational and informational purposes only. It does not constitute as medical advice. Please consult a doctor before starting any treatment.

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