Indians increasingly affected by winter blues (Health Feature)

New Delhi, Jan 19: Anxiety, detachment, isolation and a negative attitude towards life or, simply, winter blues – this common problem mostly observed in the Western world is snaring more and more victims in India, specially in the northern parts, doctors say.

“People in this season complain of isolation, irritability, lack of energy and feeling of being withdrawn. Even if there is a minor issue in their life, they start considering it too colossal and many a times start self-medicating,” Brishti Barkataki, consultant clinical psychologist at the Pushpawati Sighania Research Center told IANS.

She said that approximately more than 15-20 million people experience winters blues in India and the number is constantly increasing due to the lack of outdoor activity and less exposure to sunlight during the winter season.

Rajiv Mehta, senior consultant at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said winter blues or Seasonal Affected Depression (SAD) is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the brain due to the shortening of daylight hours.

He said that this is the season when more and more people start getting depressed as the scarcity of daylight causes a decrease in strotinine, a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another.

“Lack of physical activity and confining oneself within the walls of the home due to chilly weather during winter is another reason why people also feel more isolated and depressed”, Mehta told IANS.

Many also complain of body pain, constipation and headaches.

Mehta said those who face the problem of mood swings are the worst affected.

“Thinking that staying indoors during the winter season can protect from the common cold and flu, one should understand winters is a high time when our body needs daylight and lots of vitamin D. As already the level of vitamin D in the human body decreases due to people confining themselves inside the walls of the house during winters,” Mehta added.

Ashish Mittal, senior consultant psychologist at the Gurgaon-based Columbia Asia Hospital, said that people at the initial stage do not consult psychiatrists as they believe that psychiatrists are basically doctors for mentally ill.

“But they need to understand that we are the ones who can actually understand the actual problem and sugest remedies,” Mittal told IANS.

“People feel gloomy and depressed. They can’t sleep, their confidence goes down and they lack the drive to work,” he said, adding: “To overcome this they overeat and are then full of misery and guilt.”

“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”, Mittal noted.

“More and more outings, exposure to daylight during the morning hours and a complete no to alcohol and smoking can help people stay away from the depression”, he said.

Mittal said by 2020, depression will be the second most common disease after cardiac arrest.

Proper food, early consultation with a psychiatrist, regular outings and exposure to daylight is the solution to the problem, he said.

(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted at rupesh.d@ians.in)

IANS