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Seasonal Depressive Disorder: what it is and how to prevent it

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Having a slump from time to time or feeling sad about an event that has happened in life is normal. But if the suffering is persistent, you are sad most of the time and this situation affects your daily life, you may suffer depression.

There are different depressive disorders, such as Major Depression, Psychotic Depression or Seasonal Depressive Disorder (SAD). We will talk about the latter in today's article.

Seasonal Depressive Disorder (SAD): What is it?

SAD is part of mood disorders, affects our well-being, our social interaction, our appetite and sexual desire, Y it is characterized by occurring during a certain time of year, generally during winter. It is estimated that this ailment currently affects between 3% and 10% of the population in countries with abrupt seasonal changes, such as the Nordic countries.

The relationship between the weather and our state of mind

When we wake up one winter morning and look out the window to see a gray, rainy day, we generally feel that this is a "couch, blanket, and movie day." On the contrary, if when we look out we see a sunny day, we want to go out to enjoy the sunny day.

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This phenomenon has attracted the attention of many researchers, which is why a multitude of studies have been carried out in this line of research since the 70s. According to an investigation by the British Journal of Psychology, both sun exposure and warm temperatures favor the positive thoughts Y decrease anxiety. On the other hand, excess humidity in the environment causes fatigue and makes concentration difficult.

Also, the rain and the cold depression and suicidal wishes increase. However, these climatic changes that are characteristic of certain seasons of the year do not affect everyone with the same intensity.

The hypothesis of the lack of luminosity

The term Seasonal Depressive Disorder was coined by Norman rosenthal, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Georgetown University (Washington, United States) who for 20 years researched SAD at the US National Institute of Mental Health.

According to his theory, patients suffering from this disorder experience depressive symptoms during the fall and winter months because there is less sunlight, and they begin to improve with the arrival of spring. One of the reasons this occurs is due to the lack of vitamin D.

A research work carried out by the universities of Georgia, Pittsburg (United States) and the Technical University of Queensland in Australia, which reviewed over 100 featured articles, concluded that there is a link between vitamin D and depression wintry. Vitamin D is involved in the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, both neurotransmitters are linked to depression.

Following his study of Rosenthal, came light therapy (also called "phototherapy"), a treatment for SAD (and other disorders) that aims to modify the internal clock that regulates the cycles of activity of the organism, which resides in the brain and is activated by the stimulus light.

Symptoms of Seasonal Depressive Disorder

Unlike typical depression, SAD patients do not lose their appetite, weight, and sleep, but instead have an exaggerated need for sleep and a tendency to gain weightTherefore, regarding this last point, SAD causes them to eat compulsively, especially foods with a high caloric intake. Symptoms generally slowly intensify in late fall and winter months.

Below are the Symptoms of Seasonal Depressive Disorder:

  • Hopelessness
  • Increased appetite with weight gain (craving for simple carbohydrates)
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Decreased libido
  • Less energy and ability to concentrate
  • Loss of interest in work and other activities
  • Slow movements
  • Social isolation and interpersonal difficulties
  • Sadness and irritability
  • Suicidal ideation

SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) appears in the Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R), and in the International Classification of Diseases, tenth revision (ICD-10).

Studies have confirmed satisfactory diagnostic stability for SAD.

Their biological bases have also been studied and in them Various factors appear to be involved, mainly genetic, neuroendocrine and electrophysiological

Seasonal Depressive Disorder in spring and summer

Some experts also affirm that there is another variant of SAD that some people suffer from in summer, and they have these symptoms:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weightloss
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Restlessness

Six tips to prevent SAD

In severe cases, SAD must be treated by a specialist. But in this article we propose you some tips so you can prevent this disorder. These are some tips that can come in handy to achieve this:

1. Go to the street

Going outside is difficult for people with SAD, especially due to hyper-fatigue and drowsiness during the day. If luckily you have a job that forces you to leave home, you will have it easier to overcome seasonal depression. If this is not the case, it is necessary that you do not stay at home, since many studies affirm that going outside and being given air increases the levels of serotonin, which can decisively help to combat the Serotonin syndrome.

If you think you have nowhere to go or any reason to leave the house, just get out and walk in a quiet place. If fortunately the day is good, you can also benefit from the vitamin D that a sunny day provides.

2. Do sports

For several decades, studies have shown that exercising can improve our mental well-being regardless of age or physical condition. "Exercising regularly is good for your mood and your self-esteem," explains psychiatrist John Ratey of the Harvard Medical School, author of the book "The New and Revolutionary Science of Exercise and Brain".

Exercise promotes the release of endorphins, chemicals that produce a feeling of happiness and euphoria. Combining cardiovascular work with anaerobic resistance work, such as weight work, has benefits for physical and mental health. In addition, it can also make us feel better by seeing ourselves better.

To learn more about the psychological benefits that practicing physical activity provides you, we invite you to read our article:

  • The 10 psychological benefits of practicing physical exercise

3. Surround yourself with your family and friends

Leaning on your close friends and family, that is, on people you can trust and who will listen to you will benefit you, because they will care about you, andyour mere presence acts as a protective factor against depression and against irrational thoughts characteristic of this pathology.

Also, if your friends are fun, they will make you have a good time and transport you to a positive and pleasant mood.

4. Set goals and objectives for this winter

Set goals and have objectives has a positive effect on motivation and improves well-being, as long as they are realistic.

But not only are long-term goals going to have this effect, it is also necessary to have short-term goals to stay motivated during the process. In fact, on many occasions we set goals without taking into account that we must first exceed smaller goals. This aspect, which seems so obvious, can be overlooked and make us feel worse. Therefore, you must have the account.

5. Eat healthy

Eating healthy and balanced improves mental health and well-being. Diet will not cure depression, but it can help us feel better, as it affects general health and therefore mental health. A study carried out at the Clínica Universidad de Navarra, has indicated that diet can protect against depression and reduce your risk by 40-50%.

The study was led by Dr. Miguel Ángel Martínez‐ González, who argues that this type of diet provides folate and B vitamins that are essential in the metabolic pathways of methionine, homocysteine ​​and for s-adenosyl-methionine (SAM). The latter collaborates in the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters that affect mood, such as dopamine and serotonin.

Furthermore, other studies state that foods rich in tryptophan help prevent depression. On the other hand, polyunsaturated fatty acids (such as omega-3) and monounsaturated (from olive oil, some nuts, etc.) influence the structure of nerve cell membranes and improve the functioning of the serotonin.

Finally, multivitamins and Vitamin D supplements should also be part of the diet to prevent SAD, and refined foods and refined foods should be avoided. foods that contain "trans" fats (such as pastries), as they affect the increase in body weight, increase the risk of obesity, and make individuals more comfortable unhappy.

6. Practice Mindfulness

The lifestyle of Western societies can lead many people to suffer from stress, depression, anxiety, etc. Mindfulness helps us to know ourselves, to investigate inside ourselves and show ourselves as we are. With its practice, self-awareness, self-knowledge and emotional intelligence are improved. In addition, it reduces stress, anxiety and, among other psychological benefits, improves self-esteem.

But more than a set of techniques to be in the present moment, it is an attitude towards life, a coping style that promotes personal strengths. The practice of mindfulness improves the state of consciousness and calm, which helps to self-regulate behavior, in addition to creating an environment conducive to seeing life in a positive way, which can be really helpful in preventing Depressive Disorder Seasonal.

To learn more about Mindfulness, we invite you to read this article:

  • Mindfulness: 8 benefits of mindfulness
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