During the winter months, the gloomy days and lack of sun can leave you feeling down in the dumps, but, if you find yourself suffering from depression year after year, this could be as a result of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is characterised by feelings of unhappiness which are brought on by the weather. Currently, one in 15 people suffer from the condition in the UK, which is normally at its worst in December, January and February.
What are the causes?
There’s no one major cause of SAD, however, there are some factors which play a role in the onset of symptoms these are:
- Your circadian rhythm – In other words, disruption to your body clock. This is caused by the decrease in natural sunlight. Your circadian rhythm is regulated every day by the 24-hour solar cycle, from this, comes your daily routine such as meal times, activity and sleep, disruption to this can cause psychiatric problems.
- Serotonin levels – serotonin is the neurotransmitter which affects mood. A decrease in sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin which is a major trigger to depression.
- Melatonin levels – melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel tired and sleepy. Those suffering from SAD’s may produce higher than-normal levels.
What are the symptoms?
Being a form of depression, SAD can have a range of nasty symptoms including:
- Decreased concentration
- Social withdrawal
- Weight loss/gain (some lose their appetite, others see an increase)
How to fight SAD
Exercise (however gentle) helps us feel more energetic, burns calories and releases endorphins, all of which can contribute towards battling depression and the effects of SAD.
Lack of natural light can impact the production of melanopsin, leading to feelings of fatigue and lethargy. White, blue and orange light has been proven to help lift your mood, especially if used to help you wake in a morning in the form of a light-alarm.
The supplement 5-HTP helps contribute towards normal levels of precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, a natural mood-leveler.