What is seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern, often symptoms begin in the autumn, as the days get shorter.
Symptoms can range from…
- Persistent low mood
- Loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
- Feeling lethargic
- Difficulty getting up in the morning
- Cravings for carbs and therefore gaining weight
The scientific side of things
SAD is often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight, and this may cause a part of the brain, the hypothalamus, from working properly. The hypothalamus regulates your body temperature, thirst levels, hunger, mood, sleep, sex drive and the release of other hormones in your body.
Without regular sunlight exposure the hypothalamus increases its production of melatonin which is a hormone linked to making you feel sleepy and therefor causing a lack of energy. The hypothalamus also decreases its production of serotonin without regular sunlight exposure, and a decrease in serotonin is linked to the feelings of depression.
Treatment for SAD
There are lifestyle measures you can take to help yourself during this difficult time such as eating well and exercising regularly. As difficult as getting out and exercising as much as possible is, it’s a great way to self-treat SAD. Getting as much natural sunlight exposure as you can will help increase your serotonin levels.
If you’re still finding things hard there are others measures you can take during this difficult time. There are different types of therapy you could consider including light therapy, where sunlight exposure is stimulated. Another option is talking therapy where you can talk to a therapist about any issues you’d like. Many people decide to take antidepressants as well as having talking therapy to help balance out the hormones that are imbalanced.
Also, if you can afford it, a great way to treat SAD is to visit somewhere with more sunlight, but obviously that is only if you live a lifestyle where you can jet off to sunnier climates for the winter.
If you have a friend or family member who you believe is suffering from SAD encourage them to seek treatment. Here are some useful websites to signpost others to, or for your own benefit about SAD and that can offer support and advice…
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