What is “Winter Depression”

In this season of the year, the days have become shorter and shorter, the nights have become longer and longer, the weather has become colder, and everything seems miserable. Some people are afraid of winter. During this season, some people will feel “depressed”, while others will fall into deeper depression or sadness-this is called winter or seasonal depression.

Seasonal depression, clinically called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a subtype of depression that occurs in the winter every year. It usually starts in autumn or early winter, and can last until spring or early summer the following year.

What are the symptoms of winter depression?

People suffering from winter depression have the following symptoms:

Decreased body energy levels
Increased sleep needs
Increased appetite and addiction to sweets
Weight gain
Difficulty concentrating
Feeling sad
Lost interest in various activities
Tired of social activities
Why does winter depression occur?

Although the exact cause of this state is still unknown, studies have found that winter depression is related to high latitudes. People in high latitudes spend less time exposed to sunlight in winter. According to one theory, lack of sunlight may change the levels of certain chemicals in the body, such as serotonin in the brain, which can cause some people to become depressed in winter.

In addition to the lack of sunlight and mental stress, the study also found that the transition from autumn to winter is often a time of year when people have a high incidence of some physical diseases, such as colds, flu, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and so on. When our body is fragile, our spirit is also fragile.

What are the treatment methods for SAD?

There are many successful ways to treat winter depression. In addition to antidepressant treatment and psychotherapy (the conventional treatment of depression), phototherapy has also been confirmed as an effective treatment by clinical studies.

The phototherapy is performed by a device that contains some white fluorescent tubes (usually 10,000 lux) with a plastic cover outside the tubes to block ultraviolet rays. During treatment, the patient sits at a distance of about 1 meter from the device and can perform other activities (such as reading or writing) at the same time. Generally, treatment needs to be performed every day, each lasting 30 minutes. Recent studies have shown that light therapy treatment in the morning is more effective than treatment at night. After 2 to 4 days, the patient’s condition began to improve, and the effect was fully apparent within 2 to 4 weeks. However, if treatment is stopped, the symptoms of winter depression will reappear. Therefore, doctors recommend that patients continue to use light therapy throughout the less sunny season.

Light therapy is safe and acceptable to most people. However, like most treatments, it also has some side effects, including eye fatigue, headache, irritability, fatigue and insomnia.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Although we can rely on these treatments, there are still some ways to help you prevent depression before it happens.

To prevent winter depression or reduce the symptoms of winter depression, you can:

Spend a certain amount of time outdoors every day, even on cloudy days.
Exercise 30 to 45 minutes a day, preferably outdoors.
When you are indoors, increase your exposure to light. Natural daylight provides better light than fluorescent lamps.
Achieve a complete and balanced diet and adequate intake of vitamins and minerals.
It is important that if you think you may have suffered from winter depression, please seek the help of a professional doctor and a comprehensive evaluation.

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