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HindustanTimes Mon,29 Dec 2014

Winter blues driving Indians to psychologists

Kavita Bajeli Dutt, IANS  New Delhi, December 21, 2007
First Published: 12:39 IST(21/12/2007) | Last Updated: 12:48 IST(21/12/2007)

As the sun shines weakly in the winters, many people in northern India are finding themselves depressed, aloof and withdrawn with no desire for love, life or sex.

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"Winter blues" is a common problem in the West but now psychologists in India, especially in the northern states, are finding more people trooping in with the ailment.

"Most people during this season complain of feeling withdrawn, lazy, depressed and even hate interacting with others. They lose interest in life, don't enjoy any kind of entertainment and have no desire for sex," JM Wadhawan, head of the department of psychiatry at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi, told IANS.

Psychologists explain "winter blues" as Seasonal Affected Depression (SAD) caused by biochemical imbalance in the brain due to shortening of daylight hours.

MS Bhatia, who heads the department of psychiatry at Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, said many patients come during winter because the symptoms beset them in the cold foggy weather.

"Even those who are taking regular treatment from us find themselves more troubled at this time of the year, so we increase their dose now and bring it down after the season ends," he said.

Many also complain of body pain, constipation and headaches. Bhatia said those who face the problem of mood swings are the worst affected.

"We take this problem very seriously. There are occasions when people commit suicide," he said.

Scandinavian countries report the maximum number of suicides in the world, which is attributed to the bleak winters there. In India, suicides go up during winters, Bhatia said.

"Some people who suffer from depression find themselves more anguished during winters as their problem worsens," Samir Parikh, a consultant psychiatrist with Max Healthcare, told IANS.

Deepak Raheja, a senior consultant psychiatrist at Paras Hospital, said these problems are coming to light in the country now as an increasing number of people have become aware of the symptoms.

This seasonal disorder happens due to the reduced functioning of the pineal gland, which produces a hormone called Melatonin that is responsible for the feel good factor.

"People feel gloomy and depressed. They can't sleep, their confidence goes down and they lack the drive to work," he said.

To overcome this they overeat and are then full of misery and guilt, he said.

"Some are sometimes not bothered about their health. Also, we find people complain about the loss of libido or don't want to do anything that gives them pleasure," Raheja added.

Psychologists caution that people should identify their problem to find a cure; otherwise it can lead to a permanent psychological problem.

A combination of anti-depressants, counselling and physical exercise could go a long way in providing immediate relief.

"We advise people not to wear sunglasses and take up light therapy in which a person uses a lamp that gives out intense light that activates the hormone," Raheja said.

The best medicine, however, would be not to miss the sun - even if bleak - and to indulge in physical activity.


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