Winter seasonal depression
With the advent of autumn and the onset of cold weather, many people of all ages show signs of depression, in what is known as “winter depression syndrome”.
The syndrome that millions of people suffer from is also known as “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD), a form of depression that comes and goes with the seasons.
Definition of winter seasonal depression
Seasonal affective disorder is defined as depression that occurs to a person at a specific time of the year, as he develops this condition in the fall or winter when the days are shorter and the darkness becomes early.
For people with this type of disorder, the onset of winter brings with it more than strong winds, rain and snow, it evokes feelings of despair.
This suffering often appears in the fall and ends in the spring or at the beginning of summer, and it affects both women and young people.
The patient also suffers from general fatigue and lethargy, and complains of mood disorders that he cannot explain or control.
Most popular winter seasonal depression occurs between episodes of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in late fall and early winter. The chance of infection also decreases during the summer and spring seasons.
On the other hand, some people may develop bouts of summer seasonal depression that are related to the weather of the summer season, but they are less common than bouts of winter seasonal depression.
Types of seasonal depression
The types of seasonal depression are divided according to the timing of their occurrence, and they include:
1- Autumn seasonal depression
Autumn seasonal depression does not last long, and the sufferer suffers from several symptoms, such as:
- Desire to sleep for a long time.
- Constant mood swings.
- His inability to follow a healthy diet, so he may become obese.
2- summer seasonal depression
Scientists have found that cases of summer seasonal depression are very rare and limited, and cause anxiety and stress about high temperatures, as well as a love of isolation and loneliness.
3- Spring seasonal depression
Suffering from spring seasonal depression complains of sleep disturbances and lack of desire to eat.
4- Winter seasonal depression
It is the most common type of seasonal disorder, and the patient experiences the following symptoms:
- Cravings for sugar.
- Not wanting to see anyone, and prefers to stay indoors.
Causes of winter depression
- Although the exact cause of seasonal affective disorder is still unknown, doctors believe that reduced sunlight disrupts the human biological clock.
- Disruption of the biological clock affects the brain’s ability to produce two key hormones, serotonin, which regulates mood, and melatonin, which helps regulate sleep and mood.
- Serotonin production depends on how much sunlight you’re exposed to, so when you don’t get enough time outdoors due to reduced sunlight during those long, dark months, it can cause depression and lethargy.
- While these physiological shifts include an increase in the production of the hormone melatonin, the increase of which leads to symptoms of drowsiness and fatigue.
- The stress hormone cortisol appears to play a role in seasonal affective disorder as well, as it is produced in the adrenal glands and does the opposite of what melatonin does.
- During the winter, people with this disorder experience a sharp rise in melatonin levels; A drop in cortisol levels, all of which leads to fatigue and low mood.
- According to endocrineweb, there may be a link between endocrine disorders and seasonal affective disorder, both of which cause extreme fatigue, excessive sleep, overeating and depression.
- deficiency of vitamin D; Vitamin D deficiency is one of the main causes of winter depression; This is because it maintains the normal level of serotonin in the body.
- It is worth noting that sunlight contributes to the conversion of cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) to vitamin D, and when its quantity dwindles in the winter, a decrease in the production of that vitamin occurs.
- Having a personal history of depression: Symptoms of winter seasonal depression are exacerbated if the person suffers from depression or bipolar disorder.
- Genetic factors: The risk of winter seasonal depression increases if someone in the family has had this condition before.
Symptoms of winter seasonal depression
Symptoms of winter depression overlap with depression and many people are confused, so we will explain the symptoms in some detail:
Common symptoms with depression; It includes the following:
- Feeling sad and upset.
- Inability to concentrate.
- Eating disorders, by refraining from it or overeating it.
- Low self-esteem and worthlessness.
- Sleep disorders.
- Low energy level of the individual, inability to perform daily tasks.
- Thinking over and over about death or suicide.
- Excessive sensitivity to rejection or denial.
- Disorders of communication with others.
- Low energy level of the individual.
- Feeling of heaviness in arms and legs.
- sleep a lot.
Seasonal affective depression in women and men
Seasonal affective disorder is diagnosed more often in women than in men, and it also occurs more frequently in younger adults than in older adults.
Winter depression may affect women 4 times more than men. There is also evidence that seasonal affective disorder is linked to premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
A study was published in this regard in 2018, stating that women are more affected by winter depression than men.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow, UK, found that women are more likely than men to experience seasonal changes in depressive symptoms, with symptoms peaking during the winter months.
Previous research has indicated that women are more likely to suffer from emotional distress than men.
But to learn more about how seasonal affective disorder differs by gender, researchers analyzed more than 150,000 adults in the UK, looking at participants’ depressive symptoms during each season, particularly symptoms of low mood, fatigue and stress.
The analysis revealed that women experienced seasonal differences in symptoms of depression, fatigue and stress, but that these seasonal differences were not found in men.
The research concluded that women’s symptoms of depression and fatigue were stronger in the winter months, providing further evidence that women are more susceptible to seasonal differences in depression than men.
Winter depression in children
Winter depressive syndrome affects children and adolescents as well, although its signs are not clearly adult symptoms, so it is preferable for parents to speak with a specialist if in doubt.
According to kidshealth, when symptoms of winter depression appear in children, parents may initially think that a lack of motivation, energy and attention is the cause of this condition.
But the truth is that a child who feels sad and lethargic, and this condition accompanies him for days, as soon as the hours of the day decrease and the days are short and the sky turns gray, he suffers from that.
The following may help your child out of this state:
- exposure to light
For many children and teens with social anxiety disorder, simply spending more time outside during daylight hours is enough to relieve seasonal depression.
- Playing sports
When kids do outdoor sports or walk daily, their mood will definitely improve.
- speech therapy
Talking with a therapist helps relieve negative thoughts and feelings associated with depression, and can ease the isolation or loneliness that depressed children and teens often feel.
- Make time for the child
Parents should look to spend quality time with their depressed child and even devote extra time to him, and it can be spent watching a movie or participating in preparing and eating a special meal.
Diagnosis of winter seasonal depression
- A robust treatment plan for winter seasonal depression depends on a good diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder.
- It is unfortunate that the seasonal depression test that contributes to the diagnosis of seasonal depression, and therefore the treatment of winter seasonal depression, has not been found.
- Therefore, the diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms of winter seasonal depression experienced by the sufferer.
- Among the most important tests that a doctor uses to treat winter seasonal depression:
- Clinical examination, in order to exclude diseases or physical pain that sometimes cause depression.
- Blood tests, such as a complete blood count and thyroid activity test.
- Using the Analytical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), to determine the criteria for depression.
winter depression treatment
There are many ways to treat winter depression and vary according to the situation, including:
- The open air
For those with mild symptoms, increasing time outdoors is beneficial, and may contribute to a reduction in symptoms.
- Take Vitamin D
In addition to walking daily to get enough sunlight, taking vitamin D may be helpful in relieving symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
- light therapy
Light therapy involves using a lamp to simulate daylight, which helps adjust the mood of people affected by shorter days.
Antidepressants are the most common treatment for people with seasonal affective disorder, and they can help regulate the balance of serotonin and other chemicals in the brain.
Psychotherapy can help address negative thoughts and feelings associated with seasonal depression.
What is the duration of treatment for winter seasonal depression?
The duration of treatment varies according to the severity of the patient’s symptoms, and the presence of any other psychological disorders he is experiencing.
It is also recommended to continue taking the treatment throughout the winter.
Can winter seasonal depression be prevented?
Of course, there are some tips that can protect you and prevent you from getting seasonal depression, most notably:
- Do regular exercise.
- Follow a healthy diet.
- Take a walk outside every day during daylight hours.
- Integration with social activities.
- Consult a psychiatrist as soon as possible when symptoms of depression become severe for you.
In conclusion, we must be aware that the treatment of winter seasonal depression is not a problem, and I recommend you – my dear – to follow the above-mentioned recommendations.