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Seasonal affective disorder: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About seasonal affective disorder

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depressive disorder and also called ‘winter depression’ or ‘winter blues’. In this disorder, the patient may go into depression which usually depends upon the season. However, it is commonly encountered during the winter season.

Seasonal affective disorder: Incidence, age and sex

Seasonal affective disorder is mainly encountered in individuals staying in the latitudes that are far away from the equator. It is more common in women as compared with men. It may be seen anywhere in the age group of early twenties till the late forties.

Signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder: Diagnosis

The primary clinical features of seasonal affective disorder include drowsiness, increased sleep and nibbling. There is increased appetite leading to weight gain. The affected individual may also exhibit irritability, loss of sexual drive, generalised and vague body aches and unexplained fatigue.

The diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder can be established by an experienced psychiatrist. Detailed history of the individual may reveal history of similar episodes of depression in a particular season with normal mood and health, during other seasons.

Causes and prevention of seasonal affective disorder

The cause of seasonal affective disorder is not clearly known. There are theories that such patients who get depressed in winter definitely have some relation with sunlight. The sunlight is thought to trigger certain chemicals in the brain which help in uplifting and maintaining a positive mood.

Prevention of seasonal affective disorder can be done individually by regular exercise and getting exposed to the sun at least for half an hour.

Seasonal affective disorder: Complications

Seasonal affective disorder may have severe individual and social implications. The complications may be similar to other types of depression. Affected individuals may become moody and avoid social occasions. They eat and sleep a lot, resulting in obesity or weight gain. Their daily routine and work get affected. Moreover such individuals may also harbour suicidal thoughts leading to life-threatening implications.

Seasonal affective disorder: Treatment

The treatment for seasonal affective disorder depends upon the severity of depression. If it is mild, then counselling may be enough to manage the condition. However, if the disorder is having a lot of social and individual difficulties, then anti-depressant medications may be prescribed. Light therapy is thought to alleviate the mood and can be given to the patients. Along with the anti-depressant drugs, regular counselling sessions may prove beneficial for long-term relief.