A few years back, when I was struggling with how to deal with depression, one of the most puzzling and frustrating aspects of my condition was that my symptoms would significantly improve towards the end of the day. In fact, I'd have to say, that right before going to bed at night, I would feel practically "normal," and I would convince myself that I wasn't really depressed after all. Unfortunately, with the dawn of a new day, I'd be right back to square one, barely able to get myself out of bed, and feeling confused and defeated.
I allowed this mood-swing situation to continue for a while before I realized I needed to get some professional help for how to deal with depression. Once I was evaluated and diagnosed by my doctor, I was surprised (and relieved) to learn that my variation in mood during the day was a well-recognized signature characteristic of depression. The medical community has termed this symptom as diurnal variation.
Despite the fact that it has a name, diurnal variation remains somewhat of a mystery to experts who study the complexities of depression. These researchers seem to believe that it is connected to our biological circadian rhythms...which is another way of saying our body's natural internal clock.
Scientists have determined that our bodies' circadian rhythms are influenced by the light and dark periods of a 24 hour day. Light is the main stimulus influencing circadian rhythms, responsible for turning on or turning off genes that control a person's internal clock.
Brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration, core body temperature and other biological activities are also directly impacted by cycles of light and darkness.
And given the fact that individuals vary so widely when it comes to their body's natural rhythms, some people with depression will wake up feeling good in the morning, and then experience a slow slide back down into depression as the day progresses. This phenomenon is known as reverse diurnal variation.
Researchers attribute this to the fact that we now live in a 24 hour society, where people have work schedules which don't fit into the typical 9:00am - 5:00am routine. Furthermore, we have the ability to, quickly and easily, travel to different time zones and even, seasons.
That being said, however, other influencing factors on our internal clocks, such as, environmental stress, hormonal fluctuations and genetic predisposition also have to be taken into consideration. All these might possibly, induce rhythm disturbances.
While the medical community recognizes the role diurnal variation plays in depression, there is still not enough known how, or even if, disturbances in our circadian system set off or take the edge off a depressive episode.
Studies continue on these and other possible clues to the cause of mood disorders. Fortunately, it is through this intensive research that experts are able to develop better and more effective methods for helping sufferers.
If you recognize yourself in this description of daily variation of mood, and suspect you may need help with how to deal with depression, it's important to schedule a visit with your doctor. Establishing a confirmed diagnoses is the first step to healing and recovery.
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