It's that time of year again when the days are shorter, the weather is colder, and winter seems to drag on forever.
For some people, this can lead to feelings of sadness, loneliness, and fatigue - known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
But what exactly is SAD, and why does it happen?
Let's take a closer look.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year, typically in the fall and winter months.
Sufferers experience symptoms similar to those of general depression, including fatigue, sadness, difficulty concentrating, and even concentration difficulties.
In severe cases, people may also experience changes in sleep and appetite, as well as feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
Normally everyone gets a bit sad when the cold weather starts approaching, but while some only experience winter blues, others get seriously affected by SAD.
So, now that we have established what Seasonal Affective Disorder is let’s look at the potential causes.
Why People Experience It
While the exact cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder is unknown, it is believed to be related to a few factors.
One thing that seems to have a profound effect on the brain is the lack of natural light.
In the winter months, days are shorter, and there is less sunlight, which may trigger changes to the brain chemistry that lead to symptoms of depression.
This will also explain why SAD is particularly prevalent in the northern regions where sunlight is missing for months at a time.
The lack of light may also be disrupting the natural production of the hormone melatonin, which helps gets your body ready for bed.
People with SAD might produce more melatonin than regular, thus experiencing fatigue and lethargy.
Some researchers also believe that SAD may be related to the body's sleep-wake cycle.
The reduced level of sunlight in the winter can disrupt the body's natural rhythm, causing fatigue and low mood.
Whatever the causes are, one thing is certain - SAD can be really serious if not treated, but thankfully several measures can be taken to treat it.
How Is It Treated?
There are some treatment options available for people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder that have been shown to make their life better.
Light therapy is one of them.
It is also known as phototherapy, and it involves exposure to artificial light to simulate sunlight.
This treatment is most effective when it is done first thing in the morning, as doing it later seems to cause insomnia.
Vitamin D supplements can also help combat SAD, as they can boost serotonin levels.
Serotonin is a chemical in your brain which plays a role in some functions that get affected by SAD, such as sleep and mood.
The production of vitamin D is aided by sunlight, and since during winter, the sun is not as strong, taking that extra step can help alleviate symptoms.
Another thing worth looking at is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
It involves working with a therapist to identify and change negative thinking patterns.
Because, let's face it, in some cases, it is best to seek professional help.
Finally, spending time outside in natural light can also be beneficial.
Walking around in nature, and especially when this is combined with some light exercise, can really make a difference when it comes to a person’s mood and energy.
And if going outside is not possible, there is also the alternative of sitting next to a window with direct sunlight going through.
There are some key methods and alternatives to beating SAD, and in some cases might even work best when combined together.
But remember, if you suffer from SAD, the best thing to do first is to talk to your doctor about which treatment option is right for you.
To Sum Up
If you’re feeling down and out this winter, know that you are not alone.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a fairly common condition, but it can still take a toll on your mental health.
It’s not easy to beat SAD, but this does not mean that it is not possible.
With the right treatment options and a lot of persistence, anyone can overcome SAD and enjoy life during the colder seasons.