Seasonal Mood Disorders

Seasonal Mood Disorders

the beauty of nature is always there

My husband surprised me with a question the other day: »Why are spring and autumn most problematic regarding your bipolar disorder? Does it have anything to do with star constellations and the movements of the planets and the moon?« I answered: »Maybe. I do not know much about astronomy. But I do know about chaos in my brain caused by seasonal change. …« When I was finished giving him an answer, he suggested I wrote a blog about it. I argued that there were numerous psychiatrists who have given more plausible and scientifically proven answers available on the internet. My explanation was too simple. He said: »That is precisely why you should publish it. People need simple explanations. They are not writing a thesis on seasonal mood disorders, they are trying to cope with them.«

Thus here it is: my humble explanation: for home use only:

The way I see it there are only 2 seasons: winter and summer. Whereas spring and autumn can be seen as transitional periods. And transitional periods are known to cause trouble in our body and soul. But let us look closer.

One of the changes the spring brings are longer days. Longer days mean more sunlight. Those little packages of light called photons transform into bio-electric impulses, when our eye catches them. The electric impulses are means of communication among brain cells. They eventually change the levels of bio-chemical substances in our brain called neurotransmitters. They are called neurotransmitters, because they transmit information from one neuron to another. A neuron is a brain cell. The neurotransmitters most relevant in bipolar disorder are serotonin and dopamine. When they are in balance, our brain works normally. Yet there is a connection known between light and serotonin. When the amount of light perceived by our eyes changes, the serotonin levels will change too. They in turn affect the dopamine levels.

In short, in spring our eyes start receiving more and more light due to longer days. A normal brain adopts quickly, whereas a bipolar brain needs more time. In this time span of adjustment to longer days we need to be patient.

Autumn would be a reverse story, for days are getting shorter. The effect is quite similar though, for what affects us most is the chaotic state of adjustment to new light quantities.

Now, we cannot change the seasons, but sometimes understanding things helps us accept them the way they are. It helps us not to get angry with our brain twice a year, for anger surely does not help.

Luckily seasonal change is also not the only thing that affects our brain. There is something that never changes – the enormous capacity of beauty of nature to sooth us. You can even find it on a very grim, cloudy day like the one in the photo. There is no scientific proof for that, but I am sure that the spectacular violet patch in that duck had a balancing effect on my serotonin and dopamine levels and I felt a lot better due to that sight (see photo).

Take care,

Helena Smole, author of Balancing the Beast

2 Responses to “ “Seasonal Mood Disorders”

  1. Bridget Kostello says:

    Helena,
    Loved this blog post–both the informational as well as the personal. Nice work!

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