People travelling in different time zones would know the effects of jet lag. It is never a pleasant feeling, especially when you have tours and activities planned at your destination.
Over recent years there have been debates as to whether jet lag caused depression. Sandy Lewis, the Head of Psychological Services at Akeso Clinics, said that there was a link between jet lag and depression. However, she said it was rare for a mental illness to be triggered by jet lag if someone had not experienced it before.
“Jet lag disrupts our daily rhythms (circadian rhythms) and leads to sleep deprivation. Both of these factors can precipitate an episode of mental illness in people with a pre-existing condition.
“The reason is that the neurotransmitters in the brain (like dopamine and serotonin and nor-epinephrine) also become dysregulated and with a change in their levels in the nerve synapses, the symptoms of mental illness may appear,” she said.
Lewis said travellers with depression and bipolar mood disorder would need to seek a doctor before they travel. He/ she would prescribe medication they could take for their upcoming flight and coping mechanisms.
“Getting medical help will lift one’s mood. It is also important to re-establish daily routines and rhythms as quickly as possible and catch up on sleep to regain balance in the brain's neurochemistry. Travellers should also try to take their medication at the same time every day,” she said.
She said a person may feel low after a flight but that did not mean that they were suffering from depression. Symptoms of depression would include irritability, low mood, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, changes in energy levels, inability to concentrate, weepiness, loss of pleasure in activities. In bipolar mood disorder, hypomania may set in which is excessive energy without being able to switch off, impulsivity, reckless behaviour, aggression, inability to sleep and loss of appetite. She advised that a person seek medical help if the condition did not improve after 2 weeks. Medication and psychotherapy which focuses on learning coping techniques should follow.