Winter depression is a seasonal affective disorder in which emotional disturbances of the depressive series and cognitive functions occur in the winter. Winter depression manifests itself unexpectedly: a heavy morning rise, there is no desire to go to work, you just want to sleep and eat when it is cold and damp outside. This condition can occur at any age, but often the first manifestations are observed in the interval between 18 and 30 years. Untreated depressive state can lead to complications: suicidal behavior and thoughts, social isolation, development of addictions (alcohol, drug), problems with work or school.
Causes of Winter Depression
Scientists are convinced that the occurrence of winter depressive disorder is directly related to a decrease in daylight hours. In the summer and springtime, the required amount of bright sunlight comes onto the human retina, which in turn stimulates the production of serotonin, which is responsible for a good mood and, at the same time, blocks the production of melatonin.
In winter, the human brain produces an increased amount of sleep hormone - melatonin, which has a calming effect on the body, causing drowsiness and lethargy. It is possible that for our ancestors, a decrease in activity in the winter period made sense, since it was necessary to expend energy reasonably because of the difficulties in the cold season to replenish future nutrient reserves when food was not so affordable. Currently, all year round shops offer food in abundance, and employers expect good productivity from subordinates. And people, faced with this problem, do not know what to do when winter depression overcomes.
Symptoms and signs of winter depression
Individuals with this disorder show many symptoms and signs, but it is not necessary that all of the following manifestations will be present. So, the most common symptoms of winter depression are as follows:
- hopelessness, guilt and worthlessness, depressed mood, laziness, despair, excruciating feeling of unhappiness, hopelessness, decreased self-esteem , lack of ability to experience positive emotions;
- memory impairment, indecision, difficulty concentrating, decreased or slowed intellectual activity;
- sleep disorders: despite the fact that sleep is increased in time, a person does not regain his strength; the emergence of the need for additional sleep in the daytime; premature or difficult awakening;
- in the daytime, worsening of well-being: lethargy, drowsiness, lethargy, persistent loss of energy, a feeling of "lead" limbs;
- intolerance to normal loads, fatigue, reduction or disability, inability to cope with stressful situations;
- overeating, increased consumption of sweet food (sweets and flour products), alcohol;
- digestive disorders, decreased libido, joint pain, decreased immunity and resistance to infectious diseases (SARS, flu);
- changes in social behavior in young and childhood;
- avoidance of communication, conflictogenic behavior, difficulty communicating with other individuals, reducing empathy . Changes in behavior entail problems with family, work, and friends.
Symptoms of winter depression often recur every winter, starting in late November, and continue through March, inclusive.
Signs of winter depression disappear with the advent of spring. This happens either gradually or sharply against the background of hyperactivity or hypomania.
In the first version, sudden sudden changes in mood, agitation (agitation), anxiety, or short periods of hyperactivity (hypomania) are noted.
In the second case, the symptoms of winter depressive disorder gradually disappear without any changes in mood.
The rate at which symptoms disappear depends on the intensity of sunlight in the spring.
There is also a hidden (masked) form of winter depression, in which the following symptoms dominate: lethargy, fatigue, eating disorders and sleep. The latent form is softer, but also quite unpleasant.
This seasonal affective disorder is a serious problem that does not allow the individual to live normally and requires timely qualified treatment.
Treating Winter Depression
As already noted above, light starvation plays an important role in the mechanism of the onset of winter depression, which causes a malfunction of the pineal gland, which is responsible for all circadian rhythms in the individual's body. Failure of rhythms is a serious stress, leading to severe consequences in the form of depression , sleep disturbance. The main method of treating winter depression is light therapy, because the reason why it occurs is a lack of light. However, the light needed is very bright. Even in a well-lit room, the illumination level often does not exceed 500 Lx (illumination is measured in lux (Lx)), and to combat winter depression you need from 2500 to 10,000 Lx, in sunny weather the illumination can exceed 100,000 Lx. For comparison, even on a cloudy day, the level of illumination on the street is ten times higher than the illumination in the room.
Therefore, the treatment of winter depression at home includes the purchase of a lamp with a brightness of 2500 Lux. Artificial room lighting (lamps, lanterns), comprising only a few hundred lux in this case, will not work. Currently, there are various lamps for light therapy. Their brightness reaches up to 10,000 Lux, but you can’t call them affordable for all people. Before buying such a lamp, you must first consult a doctor who will help determine the true causes of winter depressive disorder. Caution is also important for any eye condition.
The course of light therapy lasts on average up to two weeks. During the sessions, you can write, read, talk on the phone, engage in any other activity, but with one condition: light must enter the retina of the eye.
Everyday sessions on the use of the lamp from 30 min. up to 2 hours (2500 Lux - 2 hours, 5000 Lux - 1 hour, 10000 Lux - 30 minutes) in the morning, will help to cope with drowsiness and other troubles caused by an excess of melatonin. Bright light will overwhelmingly affect the secretion of sleep hormone, thereby increasing the production of the hormone of happiness - serotonin.
According to the results of studies revealed that already on the third day of treatment, a positive effect is noted. And by the end of treatment for winter depression, a person again feels cheerful and energetic. Experts recommend using light therapy as a preventative procedure during the winter season, when a person feels a lack of sunlight.
If there is no way to get rid of winter depression by light therapy, then lying around for days with a bar of chocolate is not a solution to this problem.
There are other ways to treat winter depression. Indeed, this condition in many people manifests itself in a breakdown and a bad mood.
Therefore, experts recommend the following:
- Hiking every day, especially on frosty and sunny days;
- you need to do exercises every day;
- you can connect additional sports, physical activity will help to cheer up;
- It is important to monitor your diet, which should be fortified and balanced;
- it is required to sleep enough, but not to sleep, and also to observe the daily routine;
- to make it easier to wake up in the morning, it is recommended to install a lamp in the bedroom, which will simulate the dawn. These lamps are equipped with a timer, and 30 minutes in the room before the alarm rings, it starts to “light up”. Light signals begin to enter the brain, and the body prepares for awakening;
- it will be advisable not to stay at home within four walls, but to communicate with friends, relatives; it will cheer you up and bring joy;
- you should surround yourself with bright things and objects, avoid gloomy tones in the wardrobe;
- you need to find something to your liking - a hobby that distracts from sad thoughts, lying on the couch and absorbing in large quantities of food.