Seasonal Effective Disorder
The trees are turning, the days are shorter, the nights are longer... Winter is coming! For some of us, fall is a magical season - full of bonfires, pumpkins, and bright autumn colors. But for others, fall is the beginning of a winter full of struggle and darkness.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons - and for most sufferers, fall and winter mean the onset of their symptoms. This doesn’t mean that they will never feel depressed at other times in the year, but they will experience the majority of their depressed periods in the winter months.
SAD looks much like other depression, including low energy, feelings of hopelessness, lack of interest in activities, and social withdrawal. Also, some people will experience a desire to hibernate - to hide away, a heaviness in their limbs, they will sleep more and may even crave carbohydrates.
Several factors put some people at greater risk of experiencing SAD than others. Women are 4 times as likely to be diagnosed with SAD than men. The further away you live from the equator and the younger you are, the more likely that your depression will manifest itself this way.
But why does the weather seem to have such an impact on some people?
The truth is that researchers still aren’t sure, but it is thought there are three influencing factors:
The body’s inability to properly regulate serotonin, which is one of the chemicals in our body that greatly impacts our mood.
An overproduction of melatonin, the hormone the body produces to signal that it is time to sleep.
Vitamin D deficiency - it is thought that a lack of Vitamin D can bring on symptoms of depression.
There are many things we can do to help ourselves during the winter months: making sure to go outside even when it’s cold so we get some sunlight, exercising, and practicing meditation and mindfulness activities. But if these symptoms sound familiar to you and are causing a disruption to your life, don’t brush it off as the winter blues - reach out and ask for help. There are several different treatments available, including talking therapies, light treatment, and medication. Talk to a professional about your experiences so they can help you find the best support for you.