Seasonal depressive disorder: what it is and how to prevent it

Having downtime every now and then or feeling sad about some event that has happened in your life is normal. But if the pain is persistent, and you are sad most of the time, and it affects your daily life, you may be suffering from depression.

There are different depressive disorders, such as major depression or psychotic depression Seasonal depressive disorder (SAD). We will talk about the latter in today’s article.

Seasonal Depressive Disorder (SAD): What is it?

SAD is part of mood disorders, it affects our well-being, social interaction, sexual appetite and desire, and is characterized by occurring during a certain time of the year, usually during the winter. It is estimated that this disease currently affects between 3% and 10% of the population in countries with sudden seasonal changes, such as the Nordic countries.

The relationship between climate and our mood

When we wake up on a winter morning and look out the window we see a gray and rainy day, we usually feel like it is a “couch, blanket and cinema day”. On the other hand, if we see a sunny day when we register, we want to go out and enjoy the sunny day.

This phenomenon has caught the attention of many researchers, so many studies have been carried out in this area since the 1970s. According to research from the British Journal of Psychology, both sun exposure and hot temperatures they encourage positive thoughts and decrease anxiety. On the other hand, excess humidity in the environment causes fatigue and makes it difficult to concentrate.

In addition, rain and cold increase depression and suicidal desires. However, these climatic changes characteristic of certain seasons of the year do not affect everyone with the same intensity.

The hypothesis of the lack of luminosity

The term seasonal depressive disorder was coined by Norman Rosenthal, professor of clinical psychiatry at Georgetown University (Washington, USA) who for 20 years researched SAD at the US National Institute of Mental Health. .

According to his theory, patients with this disorder exhibit depressive symptoms during the fall and winter months due to the fact that there is less sun, and they begin to improve with the onset of spring. One of the reasons this happens is the lack of Vitamin D..

Research conducted by the Universities of Georgia, Pittsburg (USA) and the Technical University of Queensland in Australia, which reviewed more than 100 notable articles, concluded that there is a relationship between vitamin D and winter depression. Vitamin D is involved in the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, both neurotransmitters being linked to depression.

After his study of Rosenthal, was born light therapy (also called “phototherapy”), a treatment of SAD (and other disorders) which aims to modify the internal clock which regulates the cycles of activity of the body, which resides in the brain and is activated by the light stimulus.

Symptoms of seasonal depressive disorder

Unlike typical depression, patients with SAD do not lose appetite, weight, and sleep, but they have an excessive need for sleep and a tendency to gain weightSo, with regard to the latter point, SAD causes those who eat compulsively, especially high-calorie foods, and symptoms usually slowly escalate in late fall and winter.

These are the symptoms of seasonal depressive disorder:

  • despair
  • Increased appetite with weight gain (appetite for simple carbohydrates)
  • daytime sleepiness
  • Decreased libido
  • Less energy and ability to concentrate
  • Loss of interest in work and other activities
  • slow movements
  • Social isolation and interpersonal difficulties
  • Sadness and irritability
  • suicidal thoughts

SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) appears in the Handbook of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R), and in the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10).

There are studies which confirm satisfactory diagnostic stability for RPA.

Its biological bases have also been studied and in them several factors seem to be involved, mainly genetic, neuroendocrine and electrophysiological

Seasonal depressive disorder in spring and summer

Some experts also claim that there is another variant of SAD that some people suffer from in the summer and they have the following symptoms:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weightloss
  • insomnia
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • commotion

Six tips for avoiding SAD

In severe cases, SAD should be treated by a specialist. But in this article we offer you some tips to avoid this disorder. Here are some tips that may be right for you:

1. Take to the streets

Going out on the streets is complicated for people with SAD, especially because of hyperfatigue and drowsiness during the day. If luckily you have a job that requires you to leave home, you will find it easier to overcome seasonal depression. If not, you shouldn’t stay home, as many studies claim that going out on the streets and getting fresh air increases serotonin levels, which can decisively help fight off. serotonin syndrome.

If you think you have nowhere to go or no reason to leave the house, jump and walk in a quiet place. If you are lucky enough to have a good day, you can also benefit from the vitamin D brought on a sunny day.

2. Play sports

Since many decades, Studies have shown that exercise can improve our mental well-being regardless of age or physical condition.. “Regular exercise is good for humor and self-esteem,” explains psychiatrist John Ratey of Harvard Medical School, author of “The New and Revolutionary Science of Exercise and the Brain”.

Exercise promotes the release of endorphins, chemicals that produce a feeling of happiness and euphoria. The combination of cardiovascular work and anaerobic endurance work, such as working with weights, provides both physical and mental health benefits. Plus, it can also help us feel better when we see ourselves better.

To learn more about the psychological benefits of physical activity, we invite you to read our article:

“The 10 psychological benefits of exercise”

3. Surround yourself with your family and friends

Relying on your close friends and family i.e. people you can trust and who will listen to you will benefit you because they will care about you iswhere the mere presence acts as a protective factor against depression and against irrational thoughts characteristics of this pathology.

Moreover, if your friends are having fun, they will give you a good time and transport you to a positive and pleasant mood.

4. Set goals and objectives for this winter.

Setting goals and having goals has a positive effect on motivation and improving well-being, provided they are realistic.

But not only will long term goals have this effect, but you also need to have short term goals to stay motivated during the process. In fact, on many occasions we set goals without considering the fact that we have to overcome, in advance, smaller goals. This aspect, which seems so obvious, can be overlooked and make us feel very bad. So you must have the account.

5. What is the degree of health

A healthy and balanced diet improves health and mental well-being. Food does not cure depression, but it can help us feel better because it affects overall health and therefore mental health. A study conducted at the Clinic of the University of Navarra indicated that a diet can protect against depression and reduce your risk by 40 to 50%.

The study was led by Dr Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, who argues that this type of diet provides folate and group B vitamins that are essential in the metabolic pathways of methionine, homocysteine ​​and s -adenosyl-methionine (SAM). The latter contributes to the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters affecting mood, such as dopamine and serotonin.

In addition, other studies claim that foods high in tryptophan help prevent depression. In contrast, polyunsaturated fatty acids (like omega-3) and monounsaturated fatty acids (like olive oil, certain nuts, etc.) influence the structure of nerve cell membranes and improve the functioning of serotonin.

Finally, multivitamins and vitamin D supplements should also be part of the diet to prevent SAD, and refined foods and foods containing “trans” fats (such as baked goods) should be avoided, as they have an impact on SAD. body weight gain, increase the risk of obesity and make individuals more miserable.

6. Practice mindfulness

The lifestyle of Western societies can lead many people to suffer from stress, depression, anxiety, etc. Mindfulness helps us to know ourselves, to investigate ourselves and to show ourselves as we are. The practice improves self-awareness, self-knowledge, and emotional intelligence. Plus, it reduces stress, anxiety, and among other psychological benefits, improves self-esteem.

But more than a set of techniques for being in the present moment, it is an attitude towards life, a style of adaptation that animates personal strengths. Practicing mindfulness improves mood and calm, which helps self-regulate behavior, as well as creating an environment for a positive outlook on life, which can be very helpful in preventing depressive disorder.

To learn more about mindfulness, we invite you to read this article:

“Mindfulness: 8 Benefits of Mindfulness”

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