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Knowing the signs and symptoms of seasonal depression (Includes interview)

Seasonal Affective Disorder brings unpleasant symptoms like fatigue, trouble concentrating, appetite changes, the desire to be alone, weight changes and more. Seasonal Affective Disorder is sometimes known as “winter depression” because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter.

What can you do to help reduce this seasonal depression? Prakash Masand M.D., a psychiatrist and founder of the Centers of Psychiatric Excellence offers this advice to Digital Journal readers.

This first thing to try, according to Dr. Masand, is to try light therapy. For this, “you want to find a full spectrum light box that emits at least 10,000 LUX”, Dr. Masand explains. In terms of where to obtain these, he adds: “You can buy these boxes for about $100 online and then sit in front of them for 30 to 60 minutes a day while working at your desk. The light emitted mimics daylight and works through your retinal receptors to affect key parts of the brain, like the hypothalamus.”

The next thing to consider is taking vitamin D supplements. Here Dr. Masand recommends: “Take 2,000 international units of Vitamin D each day. Some people who are deficient may be told to take doses 10 times that high, but if you suspect you are deficient you should ask your physician for a blood test to measure your levels.”

A third tip relates to exercise. Here the medic suggests: “Exercise is a great natural way to relieve depression. You don’t have to become a gym rat, either. Even a simple 20-minute brisk walk can do wonders for your mental health.”

He adds: “If you don’t want to walk, go outside and build a snowman, rake some leaves or do anything to get your heart rate up and blood pumping.”

Fourth on the list is watching how much you drink, in terms of reducing alcohol intake. Dr. Masand says: “Trying to self-medicate with alcohol is a bad idea because alcohol is a downer and will intensify your depression.”

Fifth is about getting out and about, or as Dr. Masand puts it ‘get out in the cold’. By this he means: “Use your paid time off and take a vacation somewhere south where the weather is warmer and there is more daylight.”

If symptoms remain, then it is important to get help. Dr. Masand: “If they are interfering with your professional and personal life, if you have trouble sleeping or eating, and if you are suicidal, definitely seek help from a mental health professional. There are many great therapies to relieve seasonal depression.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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