Seasonal depression

What is Autumn Depression?

Autumn depression( or "seasonal affective disorder") is a mental illness that develops in winter and autumn in people living in countries with low levels of sunlight. Russia, Canada, the United States and European countries belong to the typical regions that fall into the risk zone.

Scientific research suggests that about 10% of the residents of the above-mentioned countries experience seasonal depression in some measure( 1).Its symptoms, in the first place, are bad mood, low energy level and increased craving for carbohydrates, causing a set of excess weight.

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Signs of autumn depression

  1. Lack of energy and constant lethargy .One of the most striking symptoms of the autumn depression is the inability to sleep even with a sufficiently large amount of sleep. The body as if can not recover and make up for its strength, forcing a person to spend more than 8 or even 9 hours in bed.
  2. A sharp decrease in the motivation of .As in the case of ordinary depression, leading to the development of passivity, the emergence of feelings of meaninglessness of life and individual actions, autumn depression also has a very negative effect on motivation. This is especially noticeable in the reluctance to engage in any sport.
  3. Irritability and bad mood .Autumn depression is often characterized by an increase in the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which leads to both a behavioral disorder( a person becomes aggressive) and a negative effect on metabolism, provoking fat deposition in the abdominal region.
  4. Set of excess weight .In addition to the aforementioned metabolic disorders due to high levels of the hormone cortisol, seasonal depression is usually associated with attempts to "boost mood" with the help of ice cream, chocolate and other high-calorie sweets. And this, in the end, leads to a set of excess weight.

Seasonal depression: the causes of the development of

Modern psychologists believe that one of the main reasons for the development of seasonal depression is the "hibernation" regime laid down at the genetic level. Since in the autumn and winter access to food was most often limited, in this way the human body learned to "cherish the strength".

The main mechanism for regulating this regimen( at least in animals) is the increased secretion of the melatonin sleep hormone( not to be confused with melanin).The role is played by the fact that the lack of bright sunlight in the autumn and winter time also affects the increase in the level of this hormone.

Influence of light on health

Research suggests that to maintain a person's health, at least 30-60 minutes a day must be kept under illumination with a force of 2.5-10 thousand lux( 2).For comparison: a clear, sunny day in the summer is 10-25 thousand lux, noon in December - 5 thousand, an overcast summer day - 1 thousand lux.

In this case, any artificial lighting in the premises is much lower than the above figures - in the office you get a maximum of 300-500 lux, at home - no more than 50. In other words, the cause of the autumn depression is the banal lack of sun, unable to make up for the light of ordinary lamps.

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Methods for treatment of autumn depression

The most effective and affordable method for treating seasonal depression is light therapy, which consists in being in bright light for at least 30 minutes a day. Artificial sources of such light can serve as special high-power lamps, and a solarium.

Among other things, visiting the solarium in the winter makes the body produce vitamin D. Note that the lack of this vitamin is one of the key reasons for the development of not only autumn, but also ordinary depression. Another way of replenishing this vitamin is by taking it in capsules.

Lamps for light therapy

Special lamps for light therapy can achieve lighting levels of 5-10 thousand lux, while repeating the spectrum of sunlight. In fact, it deceives the brain, making him think that he sees summer daylight - which literally recharges a person with energy.

However, being above the bright artificial light is quite unpleasant - for comparison, the level of lighting in the television studio is about 1 thousand lux. That is why a regular visit to the solarium in the winter is most often recognized by doctors as the most affordable option.


Seasonal depression is a psychological disorder typical of people living in regions with a lack of sunlight in autumn and winter. The most simple way to combat this depression is to take vitamin D in capsules and regularly visit the solarium.

Scientific sources:

  1. Brought on by Darkness, Disorder Needs Light, source
  2. Seasonal affective disorder( SAD), source