Why does winter make me SO blue?

It’s winter again, and while you may feel a little sunny this time of the year, there is a point where winter-blues may be worse than just a passing mood-swing Naver trailer. In fact, for some of us, the cold, dark season can actually trigger a type of depression, called Seasonal Affective Disorder – also known as SAD.

What Is SAD?

SAD happens at the same time every year.  Symptoms typically start around Autumn, continue through the winter and resolve when the seasons change back to warmer conditions.

Symptoms of SAD: 

The symptoms for Depression is basically the same as for SAD, with the main difference being that SAD only happens during the cold, winter months. Depression can be around through any season, and has no clear end-point. Symptoms include:

  • Feelings of Depression, Hopelessness, Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping or difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite and cravings (not eating enough, or over eating)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Weight gain

What are the causes for SAD?

Although doctors don’t quite understand SAD, soe evidence suggests that your genetics may play a role. There are two key hormones affected by the condition: Melatonin, and Serotonin. Where serotonin controls appetite, sleep, memory, temperature, mood and other behavioural functions, Melatonin is controls the sleep and wake cycle.

For those with SAD, the temperature drops affect these hormones, which disrupts their body clock, making them feel less engaged, more tired and overall just not themselves.

The bottom line: For people who have SAD, a change in temperature and drop in sunlight can potentially put their internal body clock out of sorts.

Who’s Most at Risk of SAD?

According to studies, women are more prone to SAD than men, and the further you are from the equator, the higher your risk, probably because light is more disrupted during winter and summer. Also, people with a family history of SAD, or people who have bipolar disorder or depression have a higher risk for SAD.

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How is SAD diagnosed?

Since SAD may look very similar to Bipolar disorder, hypothyroidism, depression and mononucleosis, your doctor will need to do a few tests to exclude these conditions. Beyond that, one of the biggest indicators of SAD, is that your symptoms always correlate to the change in seasons, and this can be determined with a thorough medical history.

Can SAD Be Treated?

For people with mild symptoms, simply spending time outdoors or in the sunshine can be enough! So, pull back the curtains, get outside and do a bit of exercise – it’ll do you wonders!

There are also herbal supplements and remedies that can help relieve symptoms, but it isn’t clear how well they work for SAD. It’s important to talk to your doctor before trying any herbal or natural remedies, so you can be sure they won’t react with or affect any other medication you might be taking.

  • John’s Wort is a herb traditionally used to treat a variety of problems, including depression. However, it can interfere with a lot of prescription medications
  • Omega-3 supplements can help relieve symptoms and they have other health benefits too. Top sources of omega-3s include oily fish such as herring, salmon, mackerel and sardines. Omega-3s are also found in certain grains and nuts and grains, but it may not have the same effect as fish oil.
  • This is a natural hormone which helps regulate mood. Changes in season can affect the level of melatonin in your body.

Apart from these, other interventions can also be helpful, such as:

  • Acupuncture
  • Counselling
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Massage therapy

So, if the dark months are worse for you than for most, maybe try and get to your doctor to make sure you don’t have SAD. All it requires, is some self-care to support you through this time of the year, until the spring blossoms appear again!