What is seasonal affective disorder?We are in that time of year again where we are approaching summer. Sitting out in the warm sun may just be the thing we do in the next few months. This change in season usually brings joy and happiness to the masses. It is the time to expect hoards of people making their to the beach to enjoy the weather. For others it can have a negative effect causing symptoms such as low mood and tiredness to manifest. But why is this? Ever heard of Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? It is a type of depression that is affected by the change in seasons — SAD occurs every year around the same time. For most, SAD symptoms start around the fall and may continue into the winter months, making you feel lethargic and moody. These symptoms often resolve during the spring and summer months. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer and resolves during the fall or winter months . Some people think that it is simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that they have to tough out on their own. An option available is to take steps to keep mood and motivation steady throughout the year.
What are some of the symptoms?Symptoms of SAD can vary and change throughout the day. These can include :
- Consistent low mood
- Reduced pleasure or interest in day-to-day activities
- Increased irritability
- feeling lethargic (tiredness) and sleepiness during the day
- sleeping for prolonged periods and finding difficult in getting up
- Craving carbohydrates and weight gain
Causes of SADThe exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it is attributed to reduced exposure to sunlight during the autumn and winter days. Have you been getting out enough? Getting enough sunlight is an option to possibly prevent symptoms. A major theory is that a lack of sunlight might affect part of the brain called the hypothalamus from working properly, which can in turn affect hormone production such as Melatonin (which makes you feel sleepy) or it can affect the body’s internal clock known as the circadian rhythm. It’s also possible that some people are more vulnerable to SAD as a result of their genetics, as some cases appear to run in families.
Treatments of SADVarious treatments are available for SAD. A GP will recommend the best treatment programme for you . Light therapy is another treatment that simulates exposure to light using a light source. Lastly, talking therapies are available to deal with the behaviour changes caused by SAD.
Get some sleep, stay healthyTreatment begins at home and prevention is always better than cure. So, trying to have a decent night’s sleep (Approx. 7-8hrs) is key to ensuring the body’s clock does not get disrupted. Also sleeping everyday around the same time also allows for the body to feel sleepy when nearing your bedtime. Getting enough sunlight can also help. This along with a balanced diet and healthy exercise regime to ensure good health and wellbeing. This can keep away the symptoms all together and keep you energetic throughout the year.
Related contentTo know more about this topic, check out episode#42 on DOTIVthepodcast titled “Can seasonal changes affect you?” with hosts Guni & Thasha and guest James Tennant.
- Rosenthal, N., 2013. Winter blues. New York: Guilford Press, pp.55-63.
Can seasonal changes affect us?