Seasonal Affective Disorder – S.A.D
I think that it will be true for many when I suggest that most of us enjoy the warmer, lighter months of the summer more than the darker, colder winter months. But for certain people, the onset of winter brings about an emotional reaction when they experience symptoms of depression, which fade away once spring arrives.
It is not that uncommon - around seven per cent of UK adults suffer from the condition known as seasonal affective disorder, or S.A.D. Reduced exposure to sunlight may result in them feeling depressed and lethargic – and in extreme cases can severely affect everything from their work performance to their relationships with others.
People who suffer with S.A.D are thought to produce too much of the sleep hormone melatonin when the days become shorter, resulting in them wanting to sleep all the time. Insufficient exposure to sunlight also results in their bodies not producing enough of the feel-good hormone serotonin. Other symptoms can include cravings for carbohydrates, low energy and feelings of irritability or sadness.
When someone is prone to S.A.D, it can become a bit of a vicious circle for them. If they’ve felt at a low ebb before during the winter months, they will start to dread the prospect of shorter days, because they will associate them with feelings ranging from low spirit to claustrophobia, agoraphobia and overwhelming tiredness.
The interesting thing about daylight is that it is much brighter than the light from ordinary light bulbs, and also has a wider spectrum of colours. Daylight regulates our body clock, and causes our skin to make vitamin D. Without adequate daylight, over a period of months, your body clock can be disrupted and you may become deficient of vitamin D, which is essential for keeping our bones strong.
Many S.A.D sufferers have found it helpful to use a light therapy device, which simulates daylight, and they often do help to ease the symptoms, although in some cases they have been linked to side effects such as nausea.
Although light therapy is useful, it is still important to spend some time outside when there is still natural daylight. Even on cloudy days, it still tends to be significantly brighter outdoors than indoors at midday.
If someone has experienced S.A.D in the past, they may have developed an unconscious association with winter and feeling down and may have some unhelpful habitual thought patterns that emerge each winter.
You may find it interesting to learn that hypnosis can help retrain the unconscious mind to be much calmer and more optimistic during the winter months.