Seasonal Depression, Affective Disorder Signs, Causes & Treatment
Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal depression disorder, seasonal affective disorder, winter depression, winter blues, summer depression or summer blues, is a mental health disorder in which people who have enjoyed sound mental health for the greater part of the year suddenly start to manifest various signs of depression at the onset of a new season – summer or winter.
Even though seasonal depression is not taken as a unique disorder on its own, it is usually an indication of an impending major depressive disorder such as manic depression or clinical depression.
Seasonal depression Signs symptoms
There are many seasonal depression symptoms, as often presented by patients suffering from the disorder. They include the following:
Reluctance to get out of bed upon waking up in the morning
- Oversleeping or insomnia
- Overeating or under-eating
- Drastic weight loss or gain
- Lack of energy
- Inability to concentrate
- Memory loss
- Decreased libido (sex drive)
- Pessimism and nursing of negative thoughts
- Withdrawal from family, friends and social activities
- Sudden loss of interest in activities which used to be patient’s hobbies
- Loss of appetite
- Thoughts of, and attempts at suicide (in extreme cases).
Causes Of Seasonal depression
Although the causes of seasonal depression disorder are not very clear, a few theories – though not well proven – have been postulated.
One of the likely causes of seasonal depression, according to research, is the drastic changes in the intensity of daylight, which occurs at the onset of a new season, be it summer or winter. This conclusion – though not adequately substantiated – has been arrived at based on the effectiveness of light therapy in treating the disorder.
Another likely cause of seasonal affective disorder is the reduction in body levels of serotonin, a substance that exerts anti-depressant effects on the body.
Yet another suspected cause of seasonal depression is an increase in the body levels of melatonin, a substance that is produced in the body in large amounts when the body is exposed to darkness or dim light for long.
Although, researchers have come up with various evidences – weak and strong – to prove these causes, none of the suspected causes have been agreed upon globally. So, research is still very much on.
Seasonal affective disorder treatment techniques
There are many seasonal affective disorder treatment techniques. These are discussed below.
1. Light therapy: the patient is exposed to sunlight or any other source of high intensity light. This is by far one of the most effective seasonal affective disorder treatment techniques.
2. Drugs: SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) anti depressant drugs are also very helpful in the treatment of seasonal depression. Examples include Bupropion, fluoxetine, settraline, and paroxetine.
3. Negative air ionization: this involves exposing patients to a sleep environment into which charged particles have been released. For great results, this technique is usually combined with another.
4. Exposure to early morning sunlight and supplementation: it is believed that deficiency of vitamin D may be a cause of seasonal disorder. Therefore, exposing the patient to early morning sunlight and administering vitamin D supplements help, to some extent, in curing the disorder.