What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
A form of depression that affects people during different times of the year seasonal affective disorder is more commonly associated with the winter seasons than the summer, but while you can suffer from either form, summer seasonal affective disorder is much rarer.
As SAD (
· Feeling depressed
· Low self-esteem
· Feeling hopeless
· No longer enjoying everyday activities or hobbies
· Sleep issues
· Sadness and despair
· Feelings of worthlessness
· General aches and pains
· Fatigue, low energy levels and reduced sex drive
· Thoughts of suicide or death
Spring and Summer SAD
· Poor appetite
· Weight loss
· Feeling agitated or irritable
· Aggressive behaviour
Autumn and Winder SAD
· A craving for carbohydrates
· Weight gain
· Feeling tired and lacking motivation
· Trouble concentrating
· Withdrawing socially
As with most mental health disorders it’s not fully understood what causes SAD. It is believed that the shortening of the daytime sunlight hours in autumn and winter contribute to its development.
The reasoning behind this is that experts believe the reduction in sunlight, affects the part of the brain known as the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus has several functions including releasing hormones and managing, hunger, thirst, body temperature, sleep, sex drive and mood. In particular it is believed it affects and disrupts the following:
· Serotonin Production – reduced exposure to sunlight can affect your ability to produce serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate your mood. A lack of serotonin can lead to depression and poor sleep which can affect your memory and reduce both your appetite and libido.
· Melatonin Production – your brain produces melatonin to help you sleep. When it’s dark your brain triggers it’s production to encourage sleep and when there is sunlight it stops production to make you feel awake. If you produce too much it will leave you feeling tired and lethargic.
There is plenty of information available online to help you try and manage your SAD. Lifestyle changes, like encouraging you to spend as much time as possible in natural sunlight and maintain a healthy diet and taking regular exercise to help reduce your stress levels. Relaxation techniques can help you manage your stress, like meditation, yoga and mindfulness. Light therapy is also an effective to help seasonal affective disorder but doesn’t work for everyone, it involves using a special light box to simulate exposure to sunlight.
If you believe you are suffering with SAD you should initially consult your doctor to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any other mental health condition. They can check you vitamin D levels as a lack of Vitamin D can make symptoms worse. They may also suggest medication such as anti-anxiety, antidepressants or SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
They may also suggest that you try therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which can be helpful for people who didn’t have success with light therapy or struggled with side effects of medication. CBT can help you to retrain your negative thoughts, attitude and behaviours and better manage your symptoms. Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK). For more free Information click above link.