The acronym SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is a form of depression that occurs only during certain periods of the year. In some cases, an existing depression may become more severe during certain times of year. The most recognized form of seasonal affective disorder is “winter depression” or more commonly know as the ”winter blues”. Depression effects 320 million people worldwide and according to the SAD association SAD effects 7% of the population every winter.
What causes it?
SAD is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus which controls sleep, mood and appetite due to the shortening of daylight hours – FACT – 75% of the population in the 19th Century worked outdoors, today only 10% work in natural light.
Other factors believed to be causes are – Low serotonin levels – Levels of serotonin have been found to be lower in depressed people, in winter. It’s thought that this neurotransmitter might not work properly in people with SAD – Low Melatonin levels – People with SAD have been found to produce much higher melatonin levels in winter than those who don’t have SAD symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
Depressed mood, over-sleeping or the urge to “hibernate”, cravings for carbohydrate rich foods, and associated overeating and weight gain, inability to concentrate, anger, stress, tension and a low immune system are some of the characteristic symptoms. There is typically an onset of symptoms in September and a decline of symptoms when spring commences.
Like all forms of depressive illness, SAD can vary greatly in severity and can be a severely debilitating condition. Many sufferers can be perfectly healthy during the spring and summer months but unable to function during the winter. This leads to obvious problems with work and family life.
Getting treatment and help
Bright light therapy is the most effective treatment for most helping about 80 per cent of people, usually within three to five days. It means spending some time each day exposed to very bright light, at least ten times the intensity of domestic lighting. Eating a balanceD healthy diet including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables can also help along with daily walks or outdoor physical exercises in the fresh air.
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