Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you find that in winter your mood starts to drop along with the temperature, it might just be more than a case of the “winter blues”.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that most commonly occurs during the colder months. It is thought that the shorter days, and therefore less exposure to sunlight, causes the onset of SAD during autumn and winter.

Symptoms of SAD can include lack of energy, irritability, lack of interest in everyday activities, feelings of despair and changes in your weight and appetite.

The main theory for the cause of SAD is that the lack of sunlight may stop the hypothalamus of the brain from functioning properly. This change may affect the production of melatonin, serotonin and your body’s biological clock.

Melatonin, “the sleep hormone”, plays a role in your sleep cycle. During winter the body may produce higher than normal levels of melatonin, making you feel sleepy.

Levels of serotonin, known as “the happy hormone”, may drop in winter due to lack of sunlight, leading to a drop in your mood.

As for your body’s internal clock, the dark mornings and shorter daylight hours may disrupt your sleep cycle, creating feelings of lethargy and tiredness.

While it’s normal to have off days, it’s when these feelings of unhappiness and despair become persistent that you need to take action.

The NHS estimates that approximately 1 in 15 people in the UK are affected by SAD between September and April, and it has been found that the disorder is more common in women than men.

If you experience symptoms of SAD, it is recommended that you visit your GP for the best advice and treatment for you.

However, there are a few things that you can do to help yourself, such as getting out and about, exercising and making the most of the natural light. Talk to friends and family about how you’re feeling, go for a walk and be sure to eat well.

Amy Mulvaney

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