Seasonal Affective Disorder – Don’t be S.A.D. be Happy!

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D)

summer sunQuestion – Are you fed up with the rain?  Well I know I sure am – I don’t know whether to be worried about trench foot or rickets!

Although we are now well into Summer, for some the poor weather and lack of long lasting sunlight will be making the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder either reappear or take longer to go.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.) is a winter depression also known as the “Winter Blues”, with estimates of up to 2 million sufferers in the UK and Ireland and over 12 million across northern Europe* suffering every winter, starting from September to April, with December to February being the worse months due to shorter days and lack of sunlight.

S.A.D. is a chemical imbalance in the Hypothalamus which is the part of the brain which regulates homoeostasis and control’s thirst, hunger, body temperature and links the nervous system with the endocrine system, therefore, regulating hormone function.

It is thought that a lack of light causes the hypothalamus to stop working properly which in turn is thought to affect:-

  • The production of melatonin – a hormone that helps regulate the circadian rhythm
  • The production of serotonin – Which produces feelings of happiness and wellbeing
  • The body’s circadian rhythm – these are physical, mental and behavioural changes that follow a 24 hour period, responding to light and darkness.

S.A.D. occurs throughout the northern and southern hemisphere’s but is extremely rare in those living within 30 degrees of the equator, where daylight hours are long, constant and extremely bright **.

Symptoms of S.A.D.

The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are similar to depression, just that it occurs at certain times of the year.

Symptoms are mild at the beginning of Autumn/Winter and can get progressively worse as the daylight diminishes, and almost always spontaneously disappear with the arrival of spring and longer daylight hours.  Many people experience symptoms such as:

  • Low mood, depression, feeling miserable
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Overeating and craving carbohydrates and chocolate – leading to weight gain
  • Loss of libido

Relieving the symptoms of S.A.D.

In previous years, treatment would have just been with prescribed medication, but it has been found that light therapy is effective in up to 85% of diagnosed cases**.

Medically certified S.A.D. lightboxes are available to hire or purchase and should be used every day for the recommended time as per instructions with your particular unit during winter time.

Make time for exercise to burn calories and release feel-good endorphins.

Try to find time to be outdoors as much as possible for a minimum of 15 minutes – weather permitting!

Massage is also a great way to relieve the symptoms of S.A.D. as it helps release feel-good endorphins, lowers blood pressure and stress levels and improves energy levels.  By having regular massages symptoms of S.A.D. are less intense.

* Source – SAD.org.uk
** Source – Seasonal Affective Disorder Association

Questions:

  •  Do you suffer Seasonal Affective Disorder?
  • What helps to relieve your symptoms?

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