Tue, Feb 13, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Dreary weather can darken depression

CHEMICALLY DEPENDENT:A lack of sunlight increases melatonin production, while a lack of exercise decreases endorphin production, increasing the risk of depression

By Tsai Shu-yuan  /  Staff reporter

Family and friends of people with depression or depressive tendencies should provide extra care during wet and cold days, as the weather can negatively affect their emotions, a doctor said.

Many people tend to stay at home when it is cold and wet, but the lack of sunlight exposure and exercise could lead to reduced production of serotonin and endorphins, said Lai Te-jen (賴德仁), Taiwanese Society of Psychiatry chairman and a physician at Chung Shan Medical University Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry in Taichung.

In addition, people with depression or depressive tendencies are more likely to experience an onset if their interaction with other people is reduced, he added.

If a loved one starts to show symptoms of sleepiness, reduced communication, lack of interest, withdrawal or is unwilling to move, the observer should note if the patient is taking medication regularly and try to determine whether the person is having suicidal thoughts, Lai said, adding that they should accompany the person to seek medical attention.

Lai said he recently treated a 45-year-old patient with bipolar disorder, who stayed at home because of the cold weather and did not refill his prescription.

The patient attempted suicide, but was found and saved just in time, Lai added.

Certain women might also experience premenstrual moodiness, postpartum depression or depression during menopause, so if the weather is cold and sunlight insufficient, or if they are physically inactive, the risk of depression is increased, he said.

Older people are also more prone to depression, so people are encouraged to spend more time with them to reduce feelings of loneliness and reduce the risk of suicidal behavior, Lai said.

Serotonin production decreases, but melatonin production increases when a person lacks exposure to sunlight, he said, adding that endorphin production decreases without exercise, so depressive symptoms usually worsen in the winter.

People with seasonal depression should go outdoors and exercise on sunny days, exercise indoors on cold and rainy days, take medication regularly and talk to friends, Lai said.

Friends and family of people with depression should listen to them, support them and accompany them to see a doctor if their condition does not improve, he added.

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