SAD occurs in climates where there is less sunlight at certain times of the year. Sometimes, it is mistaken to be a “lighter” version of depression, which is untrue. It is a different version of the same illness and people with SAD are just as ill as people with major depression, according to psychiatrists.
- “SAD is not a separate entity of depression but should be seen as a sub-type. This is prevalent in people who are already under the spectrum of depression. Though more prevalent in countries where there are larger spans of winter, we are coming across several cases in North India too.
- Symptoms include fatigue, depression, a feeling of hopelessness and social withdrawal. Women are overwhelmingly more susceptible to SAD than men. Statistics released by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) show that SAD occurs four times more often in women than in men. The age of onset is estimated to be between 18 and 30 years but can affect anyone irrespective of age.
- SAD generally starts in late fall and early winter and goes away during spring and summer. Depressive episodes linked to summer can occur, but are much rarer than winter episodes.
- The most common symptoms with which patients come to us include feeling low, a tendency to overeat or not at all, nausea, difficulty waking up in the morning and concentrating on tasks, withdrawal from social situations, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, and a lack of pleasure in daily activities,
- A few ways in which people can prevent winter depression include ensuring a healthy and balanced diet. Staying well hydrated is key during the winter months since it gives you more energy, mental clarity and an enhanced digestive function. Getting enough sunlight and engaging in regular outdoor physical exercise are also important.
- Treatment for SAD involves enough light exposure, artificial light exposure, sun therapy and drugs, if needed. Artificial light exposure is effective but may take four to six weeks to see a response, although some patients improve within days. Therapy is continued until sufficient and daily natural sunlight exposure is available.