SAD or seasonal affective disorder also known as winter depression is characterized by increased sleep (inability to get up in the morning); increased appetite with carbohydrate craving (craving for sweet, sour and salt); marked increase in weight; irritability; interpersonal difficulties (especially rejection sensitivity) and leaden paralysis (heavy, leaden feelings in arms or legs).
Speaking about winter depression, Padma Shree awardee, Dr. B C Roy National Awardee Dr. KK Aggarwal President Heart Care Foundation of India said, “SAD or seasonal affective disorder is caused by the imbalance of serotonin to melatonin ratio in the body. These two chemicals are responsible for regulation of mood and sleep patterns. The shorter days and lesser sunlight during the winter season lead to increased melatonin and lowered serotonin levels that lead to depression. But to manage these chemicals or the disorder one must be exposed to sunlight or artificial light. Sunlight is the best remedy as being a natural source it is more effective than any artificial light or drugs. Winter sun exposure is something that everyone should adopt.”
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.
In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. However, some people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.