Depression can be defined as the collapse of basic mood manifesting with unpleasant feelings, sadness, and ominous feelings. Strong emotional shifts of the depressive patient, the state of deep sadness and behavioral disorders are arguments to consider depression as a negative emotional disorder. Depression can be caused by many factors such as mental disorders, changes in life (death of someone, divorce, loneliness, and so forth), but also time change and depression are linked, leading to the so-called seasonal depression.
Every change of season can cause a form more or less visible depression. Anyone can face a slight sadness or melancholia, especially during autumn and winter, but seasonal depression affects mostly individuals that are susceptible to this kind of emotional disorders. They live a physical and mental discomfort associated with the change of season, typically fall and winter.
Seasonal depression was officially recognized in 1980, although the first time it was mentioned in 1845.
D.S.M. (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) describes seasonal depression as a ‘customization’ of major depressive episodes. The most difficult months for people prone to seasonal depression are January and February, women and youth being vulnerable in particular.
Causes of Depression
When moods are in question, everyone can shift moods easily if exposed to external stimuli that are harsh enough to provoke such changes on the psychological level.
With the change of seasons, the body must adapt to the external environment in both the biologically and psychologically levels, consciously.
The days are shorter in winter and lack of sunlight in this period is considered the main cause of developing seasonal depression.
Disorders in the internal biological clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, or disorders of some neurotransmitters, are other possible causes of seasonal depression.
A specific regime with a balanced diet, enough sleep, outdoor physical activity, or administration of dietary supplements, vitamins, and minerals, can prevent seasonal depression.
Symptoms of Depression
Symptoms of seasonal depression are similar to symptoms of all the other forms of depression:
- depressive mood is experienced as sadness, energy drain, and inner restlessness
- slowing of thought processes expressed through the incapacity to make decisions, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or inability to take authentic actions
- tend to indulge in purposeless activity, difficulty verbalizing, asthenia, insomnia, and disorders of sexual dynamics
- somatic disorders: abdominal pain, flatulence, constipation, shortness of breath, cardiac discomfort, heart rhythm disturbances, dizziness, headache, diffuse pain in the region of the urogenital tract
Sometimes depressed mood accompanied by hopelessness can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Diagnosis of Depression
Seasonal depression can be determined by a few simple questions which purpose are to reveal known manifestations of the depression:
- Are you getting tired easier when the time changes?
- Do you wake up refreshed in the morning?
- Was your sleeping period extended?
- Do you face some focus difficulties?
- Are you feeling carelessness for sex or social life?
- Do you have an increased appetite?
- Do you feel an increased sweets cravings?
- Do you notice you gained weight?
If you answered positive, mostly, to these questions that may indicate a seasonal depression.
Time Change and Depression – Therapy
Antidepressants may offer some benefits in the short term especially if combined with another form of therapy phototherapy, also known as light therapy. These forms of therapy are most used in seasonal depression. Psychotherapy is used mainly as a form of individual cognitive behavioral therapy. Also, other forms of psychotherapy are used, such as group or family psychotherapy.
Whatever form of psychotherapy is chosen, for seasonal depression is very important to recognize its symptoms in time. Having the support of the family is also very helpful.
Psychotherapy can help to identify the causes of the depression and change the thoughts that lead to depression in order to avoid its effects.
For the depression caused by the time change, phototherapy is considered to be the most effective.
There are two types of phototherapy:
- In the first type uses an intense light is used. The patient is placed in front of a lamp for a certain period of time, usually in the morning.
- In the second type of phototherapy, a dawn light simulation is used. This therapy is performed during sleep, and to simulate the sunrise are used lamps with a low-intensity light programmed to light up in the morning at a certain time and to gradually increase the light intensity until it reaches maximum intensity before awakening the patient. Many patients with seasonal depression prefer phototherapy with simulated sunrise because it acts during sleep, although some studies have shown that it is not as effective as intensive phototherapy light.
Interruption of phototherapy can cause relapses in seasonal depression. Supposedly, phototherapy works because seasonal depression affects the circadian rhythms that control the sleep and the waking processes.
The family of the depressive patient can make an important contribution by timely detecting the behavioral changes that occur in seasonal depression. Prolonged outdoor physical activity can help increasing the capability of fulfilling daily activities, ensuring a climate of confidence and trust. Also, a balanced diet and appropriate patient-specific conditions contribute significantly to recover from the depression caused by the time change.
Depression is not a joke and definitely is not a thing that passes by itself without professional help. Time change and depression are linked, so be careful the next autumn and winter not to be caught in its trap, and if you feel any of the specific depression symptoms, seek for a professional diagnosis and therapy.