Bengaluru: Persistent low mood or loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities and irritability this month is explained by psychiatrists as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern is sometimes known as "winter depression", because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe during winters.
“We have seen patients who have exaggerated depressive syndromes during winter. If history reveals that the patient had depression during winter every time, then we think of exposing them to sunlight and antidepressants,” says Dr H. Chandrashekahar, Professor and head of Department of Psychiatry, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI). The symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter. They're typically most severe during December, January and February.
SAD often improves and disappears in the spring and summer, though it may return each autumn and winter in a repetitive pattern. “This type of depression is not experienced by patients commonly, but still they experience seasonal variations in the mood, feel lack of energy and change in their sleeping rhythm. This change is distinctively seen during winters," explains Dr Anand Jayaraman, Consultant Neuro Psychiatrist at Vikram Hospital Bengaluru. He says that once the disorder is diagnosed, the patients are exposed to phototherapy and antidepressants.
Padma Shri awardee Dr K.K. Aggarwal, President, Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President of Indian Medical Association (IMA), says, “The human body, its metabolism and hormones react to changing seasons. This further leads to changes in mood and behaviour. Just as certain people become irritable and aggressive in summer, others feel low and lethargic during monsoon and winter. Not only do such people feel low, they may also have an increased need for sleep and food (particularly carbohydrates) which can eventually lead to weight gain. This disorder is thought to affect women more than men.
SAD can affect anyone, irrespective of their age. In those already undergoing some form of trauma or genetic depression, this can be a trigger. For working professionals, this can prove to be a deterrent, as it can lead to a cognitive decline with a reduction in mental efficiency."