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Cloudy mood: when is the winter blues a depression?
The gray, cold days lead to chronic fatigue and listlessness in many people, and in the worst case to winter depression. But there are ways to cope better with the so-called "winter blues". Exercise and sensible nutrition can help.
Always gray sky, wet, cold. The longer the winter, the dimmer the mood - that's normal. But if you can't get out of bed in the cold season, you may need help.
Harmless or dangerous?
When the alarm clock rings, there is sometimes no drive to leave the cozy, warm bed, especially in winter. It is still dark outside, the wind whistles around the house and the rain is pounding against the windows.
And even those who struggle to get out of bed often never find their way out of lack of drive. Is it harmless or even dangerous?
"It depends," says Iris Hauth, chief physician at the Alexianer hospital in Berlin-Weißensee and specialist in psychiatry. A temporary winter blues that only occurs briefly and hardly disturbs everyday life can still be completely harmless.
Lack of daylight
The reason for the rather bad mood in winter is often a lack of daylight, which disrupts the hormonal balance. "Less daylight leads to a higher release of the hormone melatonin, which makes you tired," explains Hauth.
Almost everyone has experienced such a low before. If it occurs in the cold season of the year for at least two consecutive years and is over afterwards, experts talk about SAD. The abbreviation stands for "Seasonal Affective Disorder", which means a seasonal disturbance of the mood - the winter depression.
Go for a walk during the day
In the acute phase, those affected are not only lacking in drive, they can also be constantly irritated, for example. "In addition to a higher need for sleep, there are often cravings," explains psychiatrist Ulrich Hegerl, professor at the University of Frankfurt.
No matter whether winter blues or winter depression: there are some things that really help against this. For example, if those affected go for a half-hour walk during the day. "During the bright hours, the body forms the happiness hormone serotonin, which activates the body and lifts the mood," says Iris Hauth.
It is also important to exercise enough. Exercise is an effective antidepressant. No matter if you go for a walk, jog or ride a bike: Movement and light bring a special mood in the morning.
Proper nutrition can also help. Research has shown that a balanced diet with whole grains, vegetables and fruits can raise the mood. On the other hand, a lot of animal protein slows down the formation of serotonin by eating too much cheese, milk and meat.
Seek professional help for long-lasting complaints
If all of this does not help and the low lasts longer than two weeks, those affected should seek professional help. The symptoms may be indicative of depression requiring treatment.
Affected persons and their relatives can get free information on the Depression Help from Germany, which is available throughout Germany.
"It is important to clarify whether the upset is actually seasonal or whether there could be professional or private problems behind it," says Hauth.
Antidepressants and psychotherapy
"There is evidence of depression if, for example, the patient is plagued with feelings of guilt and hopelessness and joylessness and suffers from deep exhaustion and weight loss," explains Hegerl.
In such cases, taking antidepressants can help. "Contrary to popular belief, these drugs are not addictive," says Hegerl. In people with depression, many brain functions have changed - without it being clear what the exact cause is. The exact mechanism of action of the antidepressants has also not yet been clarified.
Their effectiveness is generally well documented. But sometimes more than one attempt is necessary to find a medication that is well tolerated by the individual and that works well. In addition to antidepressants, psychotherapy is also prescribed in many cases. (ad, source: dpa / tmn)