Winter, a SAD time for many!
Winter, a SAD time for many!
Winter in Pakistan brings many wonderful things, we all start pulling the heavy sweaters out of storage and munching dry fruits near the fireplace or heater. However, for some people its sad time
By Hafsah Sarfraz Winter has rolled around again. The leaves are falling from the trees, the days are getting colder and shorter and itís even snowing at some places. Doesn't this sound so peaceful? Indeed, it is but there is a much darker side of winter too, which is SAD. A lot of us might not know about it, so lets get acquainted with it. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it is a sort of depression that tends to occur (and recur), as the days grow shorter in the fall and winter. It is believed that affected persons react adversely to the decreasing amounts of light and the colder temperatures as the fall and winter progress. Seasonal affective disorder has not been recognized very long as a medical condition. Seasonal affective disorder is also sometimes called winter depression, winter blues, or the hibernation reaction.
The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include sadness, anxiety, loss of interest in usual activities, an increased desire to be left alone, inability to think or concentrate lack of energy, tiredness and fatigue, lack of sleep, loss of appetite etc. These symptoms are quite similar to symptoms of depression and so is this disorder. The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder typically tend to begin in the fall each year, lasting until spring. The symptoms are more intense during the darkest months. Therefore, the more common months of symptoms are usually late November, December and continue till the mid of February.
The exact cause of this condition is still not known, but the influence of latitude on SAD strongly suggests that it is caused by changes in the availability of sunlight. One theory is that with decreased exposure to sunlight, the biological clock that regulates mood, sleep, and hormones is delayed, running more slowly in winter. Exposure to light may reset the biological clock.
Another theory is that brain chemicals that transmit information between nerves, called neurotransmitters (for example serotonin), may be altered in individuals with SAD. It is believed that exposure to light can correct these imbalances.
In any type of psychological disorder, it is very important to diagnose oneself, either through self diagnosis or through the help of a doctor. Sometimes physical problems can cause depression. But other times, symptoms of SAD are part of a more complex psychiatric problem. A health professional should be the one to determine the level of depression and recommend the right form of treatment before the disorder leads to major depression.
In our country Pakistan, people fear from going to the doctor as he might diagnose them. However, it is much better to get diagnosed and receive the right treatment rather than sitting inside the four walls of the house and face even greater problems. If you or someone you know have the symptoms of SAD, see your doctor for a thorough examination. Only a doctor or an expert can make sure that these symptoms are not caused by another form of depression or major medical illness because most psychological disorders share more or less the same symptoms. Hence it is important for a patient to get diagnosed with the right disease and receive its treatment.
Treatments of SAD include medication, which depends on person to person. Light therapy is another effective treatment for it. Sometimes antidepressant medicine is used alone, or in combination with light therapy. Spending time outdoors during the day can be helpful, as well as maximising the amount of sunlight you are exposed to at home, school or in the office. Light therapy, sometimes called photo therapy, is administered by a device that contains white fluorescent light tubes covered with a plastic screen to block ultraviolet rays. The patient does not need to look directly into the light, but reads or eats while sitting in front of the device at a distance of 2 to 3 feet. Light therapy is safe and generally well tolerated. The basic aim of light therapy is to give light to your body so an easy way is to sit in the sun for some time in the day or even let sunlight come into the house from the windows.
Recent studies suggest that morning light therapy is more effective than evening treatments. Using this treatment too late in the day may also produce insomnia. Hence it should be avoided. Patients who take proper light therapy for 30 or more minutes every morning have shown some improvement within 2 to 4 days and reach full benefits within 2 to 4 weeks. The symptoms of SAD return quickly after discontinuation of light therapy, so light treatment should be continued throughout the entire season of low sunlight. People who have suffered this disorder earlier can take precautionary steps to avoid it in the future. Simple precautions can help a person to prevent SAD from coming back. These precautions include, try to spend some amount of time outside every day, even when it's very cloudy. The effects of daylight are still beneficial. Moreover, eat a well balanced diet, including sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals as recommended by the doctor. This will help you have more energy even though your body is craving starchy and sweet foods. Exercise or walk for 30 minutes every day or at least 3 times a week. Stay involved with your social circle and regular activities. This can be a tremendous means of support during winter months.
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