Researchers might have just found out exactly when depression strikes for those who feel down during winter time.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), often called winter blues or winter depression, sets in as the temperature drops and days shorten, causing severe symptoms of depression.
However, as part of a report published by ABC News, as the sun sets earlier following daylight saving time, many sufferers begin feeling the effects of SAD.
Symptoms of SAD include excessive sleeping, irritability, anhedonia and loss of motivation, Jeff Janata, director of psychology at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, told ABC News.
“The weeks immediately after the switch to daylight saving time is often the period of time when this emerges,” said Janata.
According to researchers, about 3 percent of the general population are affected by SAD, while most sufferers seek professional help every year for melancholy depression.
A hallmark symptom of SAD is the constant craving for carbs as a result of low energy, and if you were to take into account all the symptoms, it sounds like hibernation, Janata stated.
Janata compared the similarity between the seasonal mental illness and animal models who conserve energy in the winter.
Moreover, to diagnosis a patient with SAD, symptoms need to be present for at least two years, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
SAD, at one time, was a separate disorder, however, the latest edition of the DSM modified the illness placing it in under major depressive disorder.
Out of the many treatments available, light therapy is the most effective, with antidepressants coming in second.
The trick is to place a bright lamp at the corner of the room and slowly move it closer to the patient’s bed over time.
Based on the doctor’s prescribed method, patients should sit at a safe distance from the lamp for about 30-60 minutes a day, using a full spectrum light at 10,000 lux.
If light therapy is ineffective, antidepressants in the SSRI class are useful in treating symptoms of anhedonia, negative thinking, and loss of motivation. Powerful drugs in this class include fluoxetine, sertraline, and paroxetine.
Before seeking pharmaceutical treatment or light therapy, it’s important to visit a primary care doctor first, as there are many physical causes mimicking symptoms of SAD.