As the leaves start to fall off the trees and the nights draw in, many of us can start to feel low (especially because we had a real summer this year). No longer getting enough natural light and lux (the measurement of the intensity of light), SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can creep up on us and affect our mood, social life and work.
What is SAD?
SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. Also known as ‘winter depression’ the symptoms usually get worse in the winter months, but some people can also suffer from SAD in the summer months.
Symptoms of SAD
• a persistent low mood
• feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
• loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
• sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the mornings
• feeling lethargic and sleepy during the day
• craving carbohydrates and weight gain
Causes of SAD
The main theory behind SAD is that people are affected by a lack of sunlight which stops the hypothalamus in the brain from working properly. This can lower the production of serotonin (lower serotonin levels are linked to depression). It also increases the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes you feel sleepy) and can affect the body’s internal clock (less light can affect your body clock and lead to SAD symptoms). SAD has also been found to have genetic links and can run in families.
Treatments for SAD
Luckily there are a range of ways to treat SAD. You can change your lifestyle to try and get more natural light, exercise regularly and adopt strategies to reduce your stress levels. Talking therapies can also help. Many people use a light box to simulate exposure to sunlight. In some cases medication is prescribed. It’s important to see your GP who can suggest the most suitable treatment (a combination of treatment can also be effective).
Self-help for SAD
There are many things you can to alleviate the symptoms of SAD.
- Get as much natural sunlight as possible (get outside in the morning, at lunchtime and in the evening)
- Sit near windows when indoors
- Take plenty of exercise (especially outside)
- Eat a balanced diet
- Avoid stressful situations which can contribute to SAD
- Make your home and work environment as light and airy as possible
- Talk to your family and friends about how you feel
Although SAD is primarily caused by lack of sunlight, there can be underlying issues which may also be playing a part in how you feel. I’m here to help if you are struggling with SAD or depression.