Coping with the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Photo by Qiao Liu

If you’ve begun to feel uncontrollably and unexplainably morose as the days become shorter, the darkness arrives earlier and the weather becomes colder and more unforgiving, then you may be one of the unfortunate few who suffers from seasonal depression.

Also called Seasonal Affective Disorder (literally, S.A.D.), seasonal depression is a specific type of mood disorder that is most related to the changing of the seasons — and more distinctly occurs during the winter months.

This often leaves people feeling moody, sluggish or excessively irritable, losing interest in things they enjoy, being low energy, causes under or over-sleeping, a lack of concentration, leads to changes in weight or appetite — and most dangerously, having more frequent thoughts regarding death or suicide.

This is most easily explained by a number of factors, including the amount of sunlight people receive on a daily basis — Vitamin D deficiency has been known to be linked with symptoms of chronic depression.

We all have the tendency to get SAD — and whilst it cannot always be avoided or fixed, especially if it is the result of a chemical imbalance, isolation does nothing but further exacerbate the problem.

Furthermore, this change is aggravated by a shift in people’s biological clock — their circadian rhythms — which is interrupted and confused by the shift in hours of sunlight. Circadian rhythms are dominated by physical and environmental cues, such as the rising and falling of the sun, to naturally determine when we should rise and wake.

As well, a drop in your serotonin and melatonin levels during this period adds an extra level of complication, as the lack of sunlight during this time can impact sleep patterns, moods and trigger SAD.

Because of this, onset-SAD should be taken extremely seriously, as it affects two to three per cent of the general population annually.

Furthermore, 13 to 17 per cent of people who experience symptoms of SAD have a family member with the disorder, indicating a genetic component to it.

Moreover, SAD is often diagnosed higher in women than men, and disproportionately so in younger, as opposed to older, adults. SAD is considered a “specifier” of overarching, major depression symptoms; which means that if you currently suffer from chronic depression, you are most likely to experience symptoms of SAD.

We all have the tendency to get SAD — and whilst it cannot always be avoided or fixed, especially if it is the result of a chemical imbalance, isolation does nothing but further exacerbate the problem.

It can be very easy to lock ourselves away during the colder months, turn out the lights and resort to Netflix to dull the pain of existence — especially during cuffing season when many individuals are left craving intimacy and a relationship.

But we shouldn’t allow ourselves to succumb to it if we don’t have to.

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