Changing weather can have a profound effect on our body and mind. We all feel happy and relaxed during spring and summer, while the cold, cloudy days and long, dreary nights of winter often make us feel depressed. If you are someone who is feeling gloomy because of the abnormal polar temperatures, you’re not alone, there are millions of people who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) also called “winter depression” or “seasonal depression” is a form of depression that is provoked by seasonal changes. The symptoms of SAD are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter months and this is the reason it is also referred to as “winter depression”. Some people may experience episodes of depression during the summer months, but it’s a lot less common.
Let’s take a look at some common questions people have about this disorder:
What Are The Signs & Symptoms of SAD? | What is seasonal affective disorder?
In most cases, people start to experience SAD symptoms during late autumn or early winter and find relief during the sunnier days of spring and summer. The severity, patterns, and characteristics of SAD symptoms may vary considerably from person-to-person, and usually, include many symptoms similar to major depression. Common symptoms of “winter depression” include:
- persistent low mood
- a feeling of sadness and hopelessness
- lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities
- low sex drive
- trouble concentrating
- daytime fatigue
- increased irritability
- tendency to oversleep
- decreased physical activity
- carvings for simple carbohydrates and tendency to overeat
- weight gain
Causes of SAD | What is seasonal affective disorder?
The exact causes of seasonal affective disorder remain unknown; however, experts believe that it is the lack of sunlight during winter that might affect a part of the brain called the “hypothalamus” and stop it from working properly, which may result in:
- Overproduction of Melatonin – Melatonin is a hormone produced and secreted by the pineal gland and helps to regulate sleep and mood. During the shorter and darker winter days, the body increases the production of melatonin. Increased production of melatonin makes the person lethargic and sleepy.
- Reduction in Serotonin levels – serotonin (aka happy hormone) is a hormone produced by the pineal gland and helps regulate mood, appetite, and sleep. Reduces sunlight exposure during the winter days causes a drop in the production of this hormone. Reduction in serotonin levels in the body during the winter season is the main cause of depression.
- Disruption of Body’s Internal Clock – shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in winter may also disrupt the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm), this can also lead to feelings of depression.
What Can You Do to Manage SAD? | What is seasonal affective disorder?
Depression in any form or at any time is not good for both mental and physical health. If you think you are experiencing some of the symptoms of SA, you need to seek medical care. There are a number of things you can do for yourself to effectively manage the symptoms of SAD, let’s explore some options:
- increased exposure to sunlight
- develop a sleep routine
- eat right
- remain active
- participate in social activities
- exercise regularly
- light therapy
- antidepressant medications
Southbank Medical Centre
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?