Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

As the shortest day approaches and daylight is in short supply, I get to thinking about SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which is a type of depression that occurs in the winter in countries that are a distance from the equator. sad

I find this time of year leading up to the shortest day difficult, and my mood picks up in the New Year as the days gradually become longer.  Experts say SAD is most likely caused by lack of sunlight alone and not by cold temperatures. Depressive symptoms usually build up slowly as days start getting shorter, and they gradually subside in early spring, as the amount of sunlight rises each day.

Why do some people get SAD?

Theories include thinking that seasonal changes disrupt the circadian rhythm: the 24-hour clock that regulates how we function during sleeping and waking hours, causing us to feel energized and alert sometimes and drowsy at other times; another school of thought is that the changing seasons disrupt hormones such as serotonin and melatonin, which regulate sleep, mood, and feelings of well-being

Medical New Today reported that there are certain factors that can affect who gets SAD and who is less likely to experience it:

  • Gender – females are more likely than males to suffer from SAD, although this may be due to a greater prevalence of depression among women. Males may have more severe symptoms.
  • Location – some studies suggest that the further someone lives from the equator, the higher the chances of developing SAD, due to the shortage of daylight..
  • Genetics – individuals with a close relative who has or had SAD may be more prone to SAD.
  • History of Depression – people with a history of depression or bipolar are more likely to develop SAD than those with no such history.

So what are the symptoms of SAD?

The signs and symptoms of SAD are similar to those of depression, but they come on as winter approaches and go away during springtime. In the majority of cases, symptoms come back each year at around the same time.

Symptoms worsening as the amount of daylight lessens and the severity of SAD can vary considerably between individuals.

The signs and symptoms of SAD can include:

  • feeling guilty and worthless
  • feeling anxiety and stress
  • indecision
  • irritability
  • low moods and despair
  • reduced libido
  • crying
  • lethargy and fatigue
  • increased appetite
  • social withdrawal
  • difficulty concentrating
  • weight gain

Do what can we do to help ourselves if we find ourselves suffering from SAD?

  • Light therapy boxes give off light that mimics sunshine, typically if you sit in front of a light box for 30 minutes a day this could help the symptoms, they are said to be most effective if used when you first get up in the morning. A study published in 2014 in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that one week using light therapy helped those affected by SAD,
  • As SAD is a form of depression, this should be diagnosed by talking to your doctor.
  • If you have SAD, therapy can help.
  • Exercise can help alleviate SAD and it can also help with associated weigh gain.
  • Get outside, especially at noon or soon after when the sun should be at its brightest.
  • When indoors, open curtain and blinds and let in as much natural daylight as possible.
  • Keeping a regular schedule to expose yourself to light at consistent times.
  • Take a winter vacation in the sun.
  • Take a Vitamin D supplement or talk to your doctor about testing your vitamin D levels.

Here at the Odyssey Partnership/Epsom Hypnotherapy, we assist our clients to alleviate their SAD related symptoms such as low mood, weight gain and poor sleeping patterns. To find out more call us for a chat or contact us via our website. We look forward to hearing from you.



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