Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.
This disorder is one of which I would often make comments on miserable weather days that I could possibly have (SAD) as I would feel down and depressed or often disheartened, but this was not something I regularly had or would say caused an issue in my every day life.
Most of us are affected by the changing seasons and the weather, and it is normal to feel more cheerful and energetic when the sun is shining and the days are longer, or to find that you eat more or sleep longer in winter.
However, if you experience SAD, the change in seasons will have a much greater effect on your mood and energy levels, and lead to symptoms of depression that may have a significant impact on your day-to-day life.
Most people experience SAD during the winter. Less commonly, some people find they experience SAD in reverse – with depressive symptoms occurring in summer.
SAD is most common in countries like the UK where there are large changes in the weather and daylight hours in the different season
Symptoms of SAD
Symptoms of SAD can include:
- a persistent low mood
- a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
- feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
- sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
- craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
What causes SAD?
The main theory is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the:
- production of melatonin – melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher than normal levels
- production of serotonin – serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep; a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression
- body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) –your body uses sunlight to time various important functions, such as when you wake up, so lower light levels during the winter may disrupt your body clock and lead to symptoms of SAD
(It’s also possible that some people are more vulnerable to SAD as a result of their genes, as some cases appear to run in families).
To discover more on SAD and to seek help or treatment click here