Winter and Depression
Earlier this month it was time to fall back and set our clocks back an hour. The shortening of days, the change in temperature and the lethargic changes that come about with the emergence of the autumn and winter seasons can bring bouts of depression and stress to those suffering from depressive disorders and other mental health conditions.
There are many factors that come into play which can trigger depressive episodes during this season. Some of the major factors include: the shortened number of daylight hours, genetic predisposition and various brain chemicals. With winter depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, one of the major factors that affect its onset is the availability or lack of light. The changes in routine brought about by seasonal changes and gloomy nature of the weather puts stress on those suffering from depressive disorders.
Studies have shown that people affected by winter or seasonal depression are able to cope better with their problems after exposure to bright lights. Due to the reduction in the time period of available sunlight, artificially generated, bright illumination helps in improving mood and general productivity. Seasonal depressive disorders are caused by a “shift in the phase” of the body clock or the circadian rhythm. With the change in seasons there is a change in light and temperature. Even when our physical clocks show that its time to wake up or work, our body clocks remain stuck in the resting phase. Adapting to this change of phase puts stress on the mind which can lead to various kinds of depressive episodes.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Excessive sleeping or oversleeping
- Cravings for carbohydrates and unnatural weight gain
- Excessive fatigue during working hours
- Heaviness in arms and legs
- Decreased interest or enthusiasm in socializing or enjoyable activities such as watching movies
- Social withdrawal (hibernating)
Strategies for coping with seasonal depression
- Get additional therapy from the routine therapist
- Discuss with your provide the appropriate dosage of antidepressants in order to manage the mood swings and loss of energy better
- Travel to warmer and more active destinations and
- Illuminate the house with proper lights during the winter season.
Combined, these steps can help people suffering from severe depressive disorders survive the winters without major mood swings or depressive episodes. While the winter is tough on patients with mental health complications, these simple steps can make life easier.
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Other Resources about Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Mayo Clinic – Symptoms and causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder
- National Institute of Mental Health – Seasonal Affective Disorder
- What Do I Do About Seasonal Affective Disorder?