Why seasonal depression happens and how to manage the symptoms

As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, some people notice that they have less energy and do not feel as positive as they usually do.

While these feelings may be temporary for some, they are every third person constantly struggling through the fall and winter months with a type of depression called the. is known seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Symptoms of SAD can vary from mild to severe, but typically include:

  • Bad mood,
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in things that you have previously enjoyed,
  • Change in appetite (usually eating more than usual),
  • Changes in sleep (usually too much sleep)
  • Feeling worthless.

It is not yet clear to researchers what causes SAD, but it is likely to be complex and diverse.

Some research suggests that it is on one Malfunction of the hypothalamus (the area of ​​the brain that regulates biological processes such as mood, sleep and appetite) or produce too much melatonin (a hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycle, produced by the pineal gland of the brain).

Some researchers suspect that it is also at one disturbed circadian rhythm – the natural, internal process that regulates our sleep-wake cycle.

Of course, other factors can also play a role. For example, some research has shown that women may more likely Experiencing SAD – however, in the absence of specific research it is uncertain whether this Gender differences really exist and if so why.

Get through

Some people find that their symptoms improve as the seasons change and spring approaches. However, this does not mean that there is not much people can do during the winter months to deal with their symptoms.

For people with SAD, the most important one recommended treatments These include psychological interventions (such as talk therapy) or the use of medication (such as an antidepressant).

Research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (which focuses on challenging our stressful thoughts and changing our behavior) is an effective treatment for SAD.

In one study, researchers showed that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was linked to significantly less depression when compared to light therapy (another treatment sometimes used for SAD that involves sitting in front of or under a box) Followed up a year later which emitted a very bright light, for about 20-30 minutes or more daily).

An important part of CBT is helping patients in a technique called Behavior activationthat aims to improve mood by encouraging people to structure their day and engage in meaningful, enjoyable activities – for example a hobby. Research also shows that certain antidepressants (SSRIs in particular) can be particularly effective in treating symptoms of SAD.

Light therapy is also currently being investigated as a treatment for SAD. Since this is still an emerging therapy, its effectiveness will be considered as a standalone treatment for SAD. examined remains inconsistent.

But one study showed that light therapy can be an effective way to get around Treating SAD Symptoms in combination with antidepressants.

Light therapy is usually not available in the NHS. So if you want to try them out, just choose a product that is medically approved for the treatment of SAD – and follow the directions for use or contact your GP.

Aside from seeking professional help, there are a few other things people can do to deal with SAD on a day-to-day basis.

Going outside and getting some natural daylight is one thing people with SAD can do for themselves.

According to a study, you get more natural light during the day can help improve symptoms. The study researchers had participants either take a one-hour walk outdoors every day or use a low-dose artificial light box for 30 minutes a day for a week.

The participants who took a daily walk showed significant improvements in all depressive symptoms compared to those who were exposed to artificial light. While it is not known exactly why daylight can improve symptoms, it can still be a simple and effective thing people can do every day to improve their mood.

research also shows that lifestyle factors (such as exercise and diet) can play an important role in both the development and treatment of depression.

There is a lot, especially at SAD proof to suggest that exercise (alone or in combination with light therapy) can improve symptoms.

Here, too, it is still unclear why this is the case. Research has shown, however, that this is related to changes in our circadian rhythm.

A review that turned the Effect of training on depression has pointed to both psychological (such as exercise, which distracts from negative thoughts and creates social contacts) and physiological benefits (such as changes in endorphin or cortisol levels).

You don’t have to suffer in silence when your mental health struggles. Here are a few groups you can contact if you need help:

Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email [email protected], in confidence

Children’s phone: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and do not appear on your bill

PAPYRUS: A voluntary organization that supports suicidal adolescents and young adults. Telephone 0800 068 4141

Depression Alliance: A charity for people with depression. Not a hotline, but has useful resources and links to other information on his website

Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, in a bad mood, or at risk of suicide. click here to visit

Bullying UK: A website for bullying children and adults. click here

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. Has a website here and a hotline: 0800 58 58 58

While there are many things people can do during the winter months to manage the symptoms of SAD, it’s important to see your primary care doctor about your symptoms and feelings – especially if symptoms don’t get better or if treatment becomes difficult.

If you have difficulties or think that you could benefit from psychological support, please speak to your general practitioner and / or contact support organizations such as The Association for Seasonal Affective Disorders, The Samaritans or Campaign against a miserable life (QUIET).

Harriet Bowyer, Lecturer in Applied Psychology / Clinical Psychologist, Glasgow Caledonian University

This article is republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. read this original article.

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