Your guide to winter depression and its prevention

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 Shri Awardee Dr. A Marthanda Pillai – National President and Padma Shri Awardee Dr. KK Aggarwal – Honorary Secretary General IMA in a joint statement 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.

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
Meet people – 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