Seasonal depression: what it is and how to cure it?
The climatic and environmental variations of the cold seasons can negatively affect health and mood, and favor seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The specialist explains what it is and how to deal with it.
With the arrival of the autumn-winter season, our bodies are affected by the changes taking place: humidity increases, temperatures drop, daylight hours decrease, days get shorter and all this leads to a sense of depression and general malaise.
Seasonal ailments not to be underestimated which, in this particular period of the year, tend to worsen.
As explained by Dr. Alfonso Piccoli, Head of the OU of Internal Medicine of the San Rocco Clinical Institute: “There is a real syndrome, framed with the acronym SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or seasonal affective disorder, which when it is structured finds its importance on a real diagnostic code.
At one time we limited ourselves to talking about transient ailments which, in most cases, we tended to minimize.
Today, however, almost 40% of the population is affected by seasonal depression which, as the term suggests, involves both physical and mental discomfort.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that in this period of the year pharmacies record a surge in the purchase of psychotropic drugs and supplements “.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
The main ailments and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are:
- neurovegetative disorders
- mood changes
- lack of desire and difficulty getting up in the morning
- poor attention or difficulty concentrating
- decreased sexual desire
insomnia and melancholy resulting in worsening of some of the most frequent intestinal disorders in particular gastritis, heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome.
Conditions which, reiterating in concomitance with seasonal passages – explains the doctor – often push patients to undergo specific tests to exclude more important pathologies.
Seasonal affective disorder must be framed and diagnosed very well because on the one hand it can conceal the presence of underlying organic diseases and on the other, even in the absence of more overt illnesses, it should not be neglected.
Seasonal affective disorder treatments
The fundamental technical data is that the tool generates at least ten thousand lux and that it is suitable for the treatment of seasonal depression and not for other purposes (many, for example, to treat psoriasis or other skin affections), that they are adequate on the safety profile (with UV filters, which do not damage eyes and skin, for example).
The doctor who identified and baptized Sad in 1984 is called Norman Rosenthal and these are the instructions for use of him:
- Get a suitable lamp, larger than small.
- Place the lamp in a suitable and stable place at home or work, or both places.
- Sit in front of the lighted lamp for between 20 and 90 minutes a day.
- Try to catch light from your lamp early in the morning, as soon as you can.
- Make sure you are seated so that the correct amount of light reaches your eyes
- Repeat these sessions every day as long as the risk season lasts.
In any case, the therapeutic lamp must be supplemented by the “sun hunt” as soon as there is some, with walks outdoors, outside the cones of shade.
Remedies for seasonal depression
How to relieve the symptoms produced by the change of season?
The specialist explains: “It is advisable to follow a correct diet by consuming lots of seasonal fruit and vegetables, carry out moderate but constant physical activity, spend time outdoors, change your lifestyle by reducing stress as much as possible and postpone, when possible, important decisions.
It is no coincidence that in ancient times, during the monsoon period generally accompanied by very violent tropical cyclones, the Asians suspended any commercial activity.
Not feeling lucid, they felt it was better to postpone any important decision “.
Research has revealed that Sad sufferers tend to consume more carbohydrates, especially sweets and starchy foods, and still eat more (as opposed to classic depression). Therefore, it is necessary to impose a dietary control in order not to gain weight.
Another micronutrient, on the other hand, is lacking: with less and less sun our body is unable to produce vitamin D. Research also indicates that if vitamin D increases in our body it becomes easier to put a stop to seasonal depression.
Psychotherapy and drugs
In the absence of strong daylight, this micronutrient can be obtained through some foods such as salmon rich in D-3, eggs with D-2 and D-3, omega 3 contained mainly in fish. Finally, research appeared in the American Journal of Public Health last year promoting fruit and vegetables as a boost to happiness and well-being.
Another research conducted some time ago, conducted in New Zealand and published in Plos One, showed that this type of food raised the mood of the young adults on which the study was based. What about physical exercise? He would do very well, but those with low morale want everything except to move.
Yet even a small walk, not every day, would be of great help, as shown by some studies. In any case, the seasonal form can be treated like general depression: cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy has proven to be valid as well as antidepressant drugs.