Seasonal affective disorder can affect women more

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine Comments Off

Light therapy can help, but it is also important to get sufficient sunlight and exercise

New Delhi, 07 January 2018: As per statistics, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) occurs four times more often in women than in men. The age of onset is estimated to be between 18 and 30 years with those living farthest from the equator in northern latitudes being most susceptible. Studies have also indicated that many people with SAD have insufficient levels of Vitamin D. Sunlight plays a critical role in the decreased serotonin activity, increased melatonin production, and disrupted circadian rhythms that are associated with symptoms of SAD.

SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. Depressive episodes linked to the summer can occur, but are much less common than winter episodes of SAD.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “The human body, its metabolism, and hormones react to changing seasons. This further leads to changes in mood and behaviour. Just as certain people become irritable and aggressive in summer, others feel low and lethargic during the monsoon and winter. Not only do such people feel low, they may also have an increased need for sleep and food (particularly carbohydrates) which can eventually lead to weight gain. This disorder is thought to affect women more than men. SAD can affect anyone irrespective of age. In those already undergoing some form of trauma or genetic depression, this can be a trigger. For working professionals, this can prove to be a deterrent, as it can lead to a cognitive decline with a reduction in mental efficiency.”

Symptoms of SAD include feeling low, a tendency to overeat or not at all, nausea, difficulty waking up in the morning and concentrating tasks, withdrawal from social situations, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, and lack of pleasure in daily activities.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, Vice President CMAAO, said, “The treatment for SAD involves enough light exposure, artificial light exposure, sun therapy and drugs if needed. Artificial light exposure is effective but may take 4 to 6 weeks to see a response, although some patients improve within days. Therapy is continued until sufficient daily natural sunlight exposure is available. Therapeutic light therapy is also one option.”

A few ways in which people can prevent winter depression include:

  • Consume a healthy and balanced diet.

  • Staying well hydrated is key during the winter months since it gives you more energy, mental clarity and an enhanced digestive function.

  • Get enough sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency is directly linked to winter depression.

  • Get regular outdoor physical exercise.

  • People have the tendency to isolate themselves from everyone during the winter months. It is extremely important to maintain one’s activity level to avoid depression.

  • Do not indulge in evils such as smoking and drinking as it can only put a person at danger of other diseases.