In the autumn, the days are getting shorter and darker, which beats many people on the mood. However, a temporary depressed mood is part of life and is not yet a depression in the medical sense. An "autumn-winter depression" is therefore very rare. Depressive illnesses occur throughout the year and increase only insignificantly in autumn and winter. Only the "Seasonal Dependent Depression", a rather rare subtype of depressive illness, occurs regularly in these seasons.
SAD: Seasonal Dependent Depression
"Seasonal Dependent Depression" (SAD) is a subtype of depressive illness that occurs regularly at a specific time of the year (usually in the fall). About one percent of the total population is affected. In the foreground of this form of depression is the experience of lack of energy and reduced drive, but also many other symptoms that usually occur in depressive disorders, such as a depressed mood, feelings of guilt and joylessness.
However, unlike all other forms of depression, Seasonal Dependent Depression is not associated with loss of appetite and weight loss. On the contrary, sufferers feel cravings for sweets and so gain more weight than from. Patients suffering from this form of depression also feel an increased need for sleep and not stubborn sleep disorders like other depressive sufferers.
Depression: Light plays a role in SAD
Responsible for Seasonal Dependent Depression could be the lack of natural daylight as well as the diminished light intensity in the darker months. The shortened sunlight could be a trigger. The lack of light in the dark season causes certain biochemical changes in the brain, which could be responsible for the depression. Light has an effect on the production of the body's own hormone melatonin, which, among other things, influences the sleep and wakefulness of the body. During the darker half of the year, more melatonin is being formed, which may cause some people to feel increasingly drowsy and sleepy. However, this is clearly not proven.
For the layman, it is difficult to tell if he suffers from Seasonal Dependent Depression or if it is just an upset. "Anyone who observes several of the symptoms mentioned above for more than two weeks and suffers massively, should consult a doctor for more detailed clarification, " advises Prof. Dr. med. Ulrich Hegerl, psychiatrist at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and speaker of the competence network depression, suicidality. This can be the family doctor, if there is a relationship of trust. Experts for depression are specialists in psychiatry and psychotherapists. As a first check sufferers can make a self-test on the Internet at the competence network Depression.
Treating a seasonally dependent depression
Seasonal dependent depression is treated in the same way as all other forms of depression, namely with the help of antidepressant medication and / or psychotherapy. However, patients suffering from this form of depression often benefit additionally from targeted light therapy. By compensating for this lack of light with very bright light sources (most effectively with about 10, 000 lux), one tries to achieve a resolution of the depressive symptoms. In many patients, this is quite effective, but often with light therapy alone can not treat the depression sufficiently.
Sitting in front of his desk lamp does not do anything; The light output achieved with conventional lamps is far too low. A long walk in the autumn sun, on the other hand, is ideal, even on a dull November day the patient gets enough lux during the day outside. Good accompanying effect is also fresh air and movement, which can also have a positive effect. Expensive light bulbs are therefore not necessary. However, those who do not have time for walks can begin outpatient light therapy in some psychiatric practices. This eliminates the rather high initial cost for a special lamp. A light therapy should always be discussed with the doctor.
Depressed mood not in need of therapy
In contrast to the depressive illness, a slight depressive mood is not in need of treatment. However, the sufferer himself can do a lot to improve his mood: exercise, preferably regularly in the fresh air and a balanced diet are recommended. It is also important not to withdraw too much, but also to cultivate social contacts in the dark season.