For many people, winter is a time of sadness and depression. The days are shorter, the weather is colder, and people find themselves feeling down. This is known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. While for some people, this is simply a case of the “winter blues,” for others, SAD can be a debilitating condition that significantly impacts their quality of life.
What is seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that typically occurs during the fall and winter months when there is less natural sunlight.
While the exact cause of SAD is unknown, it is believed to be related to a change in the body’s level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood regulation. A lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, linked to feelings of depression.
SAD is also associated with the body’s circadian rhythms, or internal clock, which can be thrown off by winter’s shorter days and longer nights.
What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?
The most common symptom of SAD is a feeling of sadness or depression that begins in the fall and continues into the winter months. Other symptoms may include:
- Sleeping longer than usual and struggling to get up in the morning
- Feeling tired and sleeping during the day
- Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite leading to weight gain or loss
- Difficulty concentrating
How is seasonal affective disorder treated?
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for SAD, but there are several effective treatments. Some common treatments include:
Light therapy: Exposure to bright light is effective in treating SAD. Typically, light treatment is administered using a lightbox, which emits a high level of UV light.
Psychotherapy: Counselling or therapy can help manage the symptoms of SAD.
Medication: antidepressants may be prescribed to help relieve symptoms of depression.
If you think you might have SAD, it is essential to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. With the proper treatment, you can manage the symptoms of SAD and enjoy winter again.