Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition where an individual experiences a period of depression during a particular season of the year. Although it can occur in the summer, the vast majority of people with SAD experience it during the winter. In this blog, we will look at what causes SAD, its warning signs, and how you can combat its effects.
It is believed that one of the primary forces that drives SAD is our lack of exposure to sunlight in the winter. Exposure to natural light causes our bodies to produce mood-altering chemicals such as Serotonin and Melatonin. The reduced number of daylight hours in the winter, coupled with the fact that we tend to spend more time indoors, means production of these chemicals can be drastically reduced.
There are also a number of ways SAD can be driven psychologically. Firstly, the cold, damp, dark weather is more likely to put you in a negative mood, especially if you are arriving to work and going home in the dark. Secondly, many people become less active socially during the winter months. We are less likely to engage in sports or other outdoor activities, and it is harder to travel long distances as it can be icy, or public transport can be inundated with people trying to avoid the cold. These factors combined mean people are far more likely to sit at home, which can be particularly disheartening at a time of year when we are bombarded with messages about friends and family.
There are many symptoms of Winter-onset SAD, of which a person can experience a number of combinations. These include fatigue, increased sleeping, sluggishness, isolation, irritability, and weight gain. These symptoms can be subtle and easy to miss, so it is important to be conscious of any behavioural changes in yourself or others.
The most effective way to approach SAD is to do so directly. Although we are very limited in our choice for daylight hours, it is imperative that you make the most of them. This can be by having lunch outside, working by a window, or making sure you get out at the weekend. Reaching out and making an active effort to meet up with friends and family is also essential, which means resisting the temptation to have a ‘quiet weekend’.
Getting out of bed on-time in the morning can be a challenge for most people with SAD, but it is a problem that must be overcome. Spending those extra few minutes in bed will not make you feel more well-rested or make the day go by faster. Getting straight up and out is the key to keeping your mind active and in good shape.
Most of the issues connected with SAD can be attributed in some way to motivation, whether it’s the motivation to get up, go to work, or meet with friends. Finding the motivation to keep going and stick to your normal routine is the best way to combat SAD in the long-term. But you should always be wary of self-diagnosing and self-treating, even when it comes to mental health. If you think you may be suffering from SAD, you should speak to a therapist to find out what steps would work best for you.