The medical official name for seasonal depression is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Usually people feel it as a gradual decrease in the emotional background, a deterioration in physical well-being and the amount of active day in the autumn-winter period.
As a rule, they are afraid of this condition and consider that they are seriously ill. Often, neurologists prescribe antidepressants and sedatives to them. But this does not bring the desired result, because little changes at the level of the organism.
Despite the fact that this period is really difficult to survive, and often people have reduced levels of efficiency at work, activity in the family and in relationships, coping with seasonal depression is more than realistic.
Seasonal affective disorder is distinguished from ordinary classical depression by a shorter duration and intensity.
Disease or condition?
However, seasonal depression can be quite difficult and long. If so, it is worth considering whether all the available symptoms are a sign of a more serious illness. For example, a true depressive disorder.
Depression as a disease
If we talk about depression As a disease, there are certain clinical characteristics that allow you to make this diagnosis:
- a feeling of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness;
- angry outbursts, irritability or disappointment, even for minor reasons;
- loss of interest or pleasure in most or all ordinary activities, such as sex, hobbies, or sports;
- sleep disturbance, including insomnia or too much sleep;
- fatigue and lack of energy, even small tasks require additional effort;
- decreased appetite and weight loss;
- increased cravings for food and weight gain;
- anxiety, agitation, or anxiety;
- slow thinking, speech, or body movement;
- sense of worthlessness or guilt, focusing on past failures or self-blaming;
- problems of thinking, concentration, decision making and remembering;
- frequent or repeated thoughts of death, thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide or suicide;
- sudden loss or weight gain;
- body pain without medical reasons.
Moreover, all these symptoms have clinical significance if they can be evaluated by more than seven points on a ten-point scale. And they last more than two to three months.
In addition, these conditions should significantly affect the image and rhythm of a person’s life, making normal work and relationships impossible, significantly worsening physical well-being.
Seasonal Depression as a Condition
Seasonal depression usually has at least 4 out of 6 symptoms:
- disturbed dream;
- lack of appetite or weight loss;
- impaired concentration or a feeling of indecision;
- suicidal thoughts or thoughts of death;
- physical fatigue;
In the case of seasonal affective disorder, this lasts for two to three months and gradually declines. Unlike the classic depressive episode, which we can consider a disease, seasonal depression does not have such a clear cycle and is usually associated with a deficiency of sunlight and increased production of melatonin.
Seasonal depression is easier and faster to correct and does not require hospitalization, taking antidepressants and even prolonged psychotherapy.
In addition, seasonal depression usually has a moderate intensity. This means that a person can lead an ordinary life, but it is given to him with more effort and less pleasure than usual. Significantly more effort and significantly less pleasure.
What happens in the body
On this score, there are two theories, each of which finds its confirmation.
The first theory is that seasonal depression is associated with less sunlight. The fact is that sunlight, penetrating the retina, causes changes at the level of the chemical composition of the blood. Light increases the production of certain hormones, including serotonin, which is responsible for maintaining normal mood and physical activity.
The second theory says that due to the same decrease in the amount of daylight in the blood, the level of the hormone melatonin increases. This hormone is responsible for the state of drowsiness, which we observe with seasonal depression. In this case, the circadian rhythms of sleep and wakefulness are severely disturbed in people. We are unable to fully rest and recover at night, and in the daytime the amount of melatonin does not come to the necessary rate. For this reason, we feel constant tiredness, drowsiness and apathy.
In addition to the obvious, it is worth noting the likelihood of exacerbation of certain diseases during this period. For example, thyroid disease. Disorders in the thyroid gland, in particular hypothyroidism, have absolutely identical symptoms with a depressive episode.
What can you do yourself?
Since seasonal depression is more a condition than a disease, each person can try to cope on their own.
Start increasing your exercise pleasure. It is proved that the hour of any physical activity in the fresh air and in daylight (both conditions are important) replace about three hours of indoor training.
Moreover, sunlight, even diffused, increases the amount of serotonin in the blood. Also, oxygen in the required amount improves the work of internal organs and the brain. Physical well-being becomes much better, and this in itself helps to improve the emotional state.
In the autumn-winter period, our body becomes more sensitive to sensory sensations. Smells, sounds, temperature, tactile sensations - all this affects our state of mind. All these cute pictures with plaids and cocoa are justified.
Therefore, it is very important that the skin is in contact with warm and soft textures. This works at the level of bodily memory - our skin “remembers” the sensations of the baby in contact with the skin of the mother. And the nervous system calms down. Very interesting effect. So simple and so effective.
In addition to a shortage of sunlight, autumn and winter are fraught with vitamin deficiency. In the largest deficit, we have vitamins A, B, D, E.
It is them in the right course and ratio that should be taken during a period of deterioration. Your family doctor can prescribe the right course. This is important because some vitamins may not be combined with each other.
Multivitamins - it’s pointless, because the individual ratio of various vitamins and minerals to your height and weight is not taken into account. And often in one tablet, half of these vitamins are completely absent.
Should I take antidepressants?
If you look at the Internet, light antidepressants will be in the forefront of the recommendations. As a specialist practitioner, I do not recommend involving them in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder.
To begin with, there are no easy antidepressants. These are drugs with an active and tangible effect, and it is not achieved through plant extracts or a light dose of barbiturates. Yes, they will give relief and energy. But also have a lot of side effects and are often addictive. In addition, antidepressants should not be drunk "as needed." They are drunk according to the treatment regimen. And refuse to use for a long period. Otherwise, there may be a fairly strong contrast with the effect obtained.
Antidepressants are really needed when it comes to depression as a disease. But in the case of ATS, they do not have sufficient grounds for application.
Psychotherapy seasonal depression
Conversational psychotherapy for periods of poor emotional and physical well-being can help cope with seasonal depression. Usually these are several consultations, the purpose of which is to help a person normalize the sleep / wakefulness regime, teach them how to take care of themselves in a state without a resource, help them to stay in a relationship and teach them effective self-help techniques.
Also, the therapist will help diagnose the condition and determine if it is seasonal depression or a real depressive episode that requires more serious work.
Seasonal depression is a problem every third person faces. Yes, this is not a disease, but rather a reaction of the body to changes in nature and a decrease in immunity. But, nevertheless, this does not make it easier to survive such a period. Therefore, it is important to take care of yourself and not to ignore your discomfort.
Article published in the publication "Mirrors of the Week."