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Seasonal Affective Disorder: Symptoms and treatment

Post by on Saturday, December 11, 2021

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The ambience has gone silent, twilight has become gloomy, and temperatures have plummeted, signaling that the winters have come. Between the blusterous craziness of everyday life and dropping temperatures, we would conveniently want to postpone all our plans, grab a cup of tea and a cozy mink blanket and hope to peregrinate through the season.

There are many spirits and revelations to the season of winter. The darkness and the weather affect our feelings, the rhythm of our life changes and we relish the chance to slow down and to enjoy some solitude.

With the arrival of winter, the urge to hibernate is well knitted in our biological systems. Hibernation, in scientific sense, is a state of minimal activity and metabolic depression leading to low body temperature, slow breathing and low metabolic rate. It is considered as an adaptive process which might have conferred survival advantage for mammals like bears and rodents to tide through brutal winters.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), on the other hand, is a condition where depressive symptoms occur commonly during the autumn and winter months and then resolve during the spring or summer.

It is believed to occur due to slackened working of a tiny organ in our brain “the hypothalamus” which in turn reduces the production of various neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin.

A peculiar question that comes to our mind is whether people with seasonal depression could be the jinxed descendants of those well-adapted hominids? There is a fine line between our urge to hibernate and SAD, and these are often considered as conditions present on the same spectrum. The person directly just to the left of the line might get a diagnosis, while the person just to the right of that does not. In picture, they are not that different.

What distinguishes our normal will to hold ourselves down during winters from seasonal affective disorder is the presence of some substantial symptoms like:

·        Interference with work and social life.

·        Having problems with sleeping.

·        Gaining or losing weight, craving for carbohydrates.

·        Losing interest in normally enjoyable activities.

·        Withdrawing from social situations.

·        Having difficulty in concentration.

·        Feeling of hopelessness, or being guilty.

People who have less exposure to sunlight and live far away from the equator are associated with a high incidence of seasonal affective disorder. Women, in general, are more prone to develop it.

SAD can be difficult to live with and it can make one feel tired, gloomy and stressed. The good thing is that it can be successfully treated.

Light therapy is a paragon modality used to treat SAD. It involves sitting in front of, or beneath, a light box. These light boxes produce a very bright light. People are most responsive to light therapy early in the morning, just when melatonin secretion begins to wane off.

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on developing various remarkable skills to improve coping with the seasons. It involves identifying, scheduling and doing pleasurable, engaging activities every day in winter months. These prescient behaviors fight the urge to hold down during winters.

Increasing time spent outdoors, physical exercise, and maintaining healthy eating habits are the lifestyle modifications that go a long way to maintain a positive disposition.

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