Fighting the Winter Blues
A new study used a model of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) to find out why some people don’t develop depression despite being genetically predisposed to it.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimate that more than 16 million people in the USA will develop depression event once or more during one year. In other words 6 out of 100 Americans. Another 5% have seasonal Depression some times very severe with suicidal thoughts.
Depression has genetic roots and can occur with or without triggers like loss, sickness, trauma etc.
Women are effected more than men. 4 out of 5 such patients are women.
Researchers with Dr. McMahon in Denmark found that seasonal depression is caused by not long enough daylight, making the condition more widespread in countries that are farther from the Equator. So people countries like USA, Canada, Netherlands, Denmark, England-are more affected.
Daylight acts is a natural antidepressant. It is likely much needed by patients who carry 5-HTTLPR gene. This gene programs a protein needed to regulate removal of serotonin from brain. It preserves serotonin in the chain of brain cell circuits.
There is no specific medication to combat seasonal depression.=
I suggest to patients that they try the following:
- Adjust or start current antidepressant as it can still help
- Consider new antidepressant
- Several of my patients use “happy light” or “mood light” that simulates sunshine, starting mid to late autumn. Use 7500-10000 lux light for 30 minutes a day. In occasional patient with bipolar disposition it may produce manic effects. These lights are made by Phillips or Verilux and can be easily obtained on Amazon or similar e-com websites
- Expose your self to daylight at least 30-60 minutes a day, unless you are forbidden by your doctor. (Many people are afraid of skin cancer and avoid healing sunlight.)
- Remember that light works thru eyes and not thru skin. So tanning beds don’t help much
- Eat fruits of the season.
- Measure 25 hydroxy Vitamin D. If low substitute with supplements
Enjoy the beautiful autumn on the way to Christmas