What is a winter depression? A winter depression or seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that occurs every year during the same season. The scientific name for winter depression is: (Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). A winter dip is a mild form of winter depression.
Everyone can get a winter depression but it is more common for:
- People who live far from the equator, where the days are very short.
- People aged between 15 and 55 years. The risk of getting a winter depression will decrease as you grow older.
- People with relatives who have winter depressions.
What are the causes of a winter depression?
One does not yet know exactly what a winter depression is causing. But it may be that it is caused by a lack of sunlight. This disrupts your “biological clock” and therefore also your serotonin level. Serotonin is a substance in the brain that affects the mood.
What are the symptoms of a winter depression?
The symptoms of a winter depression occur at about the same time of year. In most people, symptoms occur somewhere between September and October and feel better from April or May. You may suffer from, for example:
- Feeling sad, creaky, moody, or anxious
- Loss of interest in your usual activities.
- Humming to carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta.
- More food and weight gain.
- More sleep, but still a tired feeling.
- Effort to concentrate.
How is the diagnosis of winter depression?
Sometimes it may be difficult to indicate the difference between a seasonal affective disorder and other forms of depression. This is because many of the symptoms are the same. Therefore, to diagnose winter depression, your doctor will ask if:
- You are depressed in the same season and feel better during the other seasons.
- Your symptoms often occur in a winter depression, such as being very hungry (especially craving for carbohydrates), weight gain and whether you sleep more than usual.
- A next to family member, parent, brother or sister has a winter depression.
It may also be necessary to take blood off. This is done to exclude other conditions with similar symptoms, such as, for example, a slow thyroid (hypothyroidism). Your GP can also do a mental health evaluation.
How is a winter depression treated?
Light therapy is the most important treatment for winter depression. In addition, medicines and counseling can also help.
Experts think light therapy works by resetting your biological clock. It helps most people and is easy to use.
There are two types of light therapy:
1. Light therapy
During this treatment a light box is placed on a desk or table at a certain distance. Then you sit in front of the lightbox while reading, breakfast, or working on a computer. Light boxes use fluorescent lamps that are brighter than artificial light, but not as bright as sunlight.Ultraviolet light, full-spectrum lighting, tinting lamps and heat lamps may not be used.
2. Dawn simulation
During this treatment, your body is calmly prepared to wake up by the simulation of a sunrise with slowly firmer light.
Light therapy is usually prescribed for 30 minutes to 2 hours a day. You can start to feel better after a week But you have to keep using it everyday until the season changes. If you do not, your depression can come back.
Antidepressants can help people with a winter depression. They can be used alone or in combination with light therapy. The most common agents prescribed include: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as paroxetine (seroxat) and sertraline (Zoloft).SSRIs are usually tried first. Other antidepressants such as bupropion (Wellbutrin) and venlafaxine (Effexor) are also prescribed.
Counseling can also help. Some forms of counseling, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy, can help with a winter depression.
What can you do?
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Getting more sunlight can also help, so try out when the sun shines. Being active throughout the day, especially at the start of the day, can help you to get more energy and to feel less depressed. Also, a sunshine in the winter months can help you feel better again.