Sometimes referred to as “seasonal depression” worsens during the coldest months, all you need to know about what causes it and how to fight against it.
Affecting one in three people in the UK, Seasonal affective disorder, sometimes referred to as seasonal depression, worsens during the coldest months and it is mainly characterized by low mood and can have an impact on your everyday life.
The fact that changing seasons commonly affects our moods and life in general is no news. When the weather gets cold our energy levels, eating habits and sleeping schedules naturally change. But if you are going through persistent low feelings, it might be a sign of seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder: all to know about the causes, symptoms and treatment
Seasonal depression occurs most commonly in the transition between summer and winter and the symptoms usually begin during fall and may last until spring. It affects both women and men and it seems to present at the age of 27.
Reduced exposure to sunlight and shorter days seem to be the main cause of this disorder. As a consequence of not getting enough sunlight, our levels of vitamin D drop and this impacts the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain responsible for regulating emotional responses and maintaining your body clock. Our levels of serotonin and melatonin –responsible for producing feelings of joy and happiness– are negatively affected by reduced exposure to sunlight. This is why during duller and shorter days we experience feelings of depression.
The symptoms can impact our daily lives, among them, we may find:
- Low mood
- Low self-esteem
- Reduced sex drive
- Increased appetite and weight gain as a consequence of the latter.
The difference between SAD and depression is that the person suffering from seasonal depression will often get better during the summer.
When to consult a professional
If seasonal disorder affects your daily life, you should seek help. Your doctor will recommend a suitable treatment for you. Some people might need therapy or, in more severe cases, antidepressants might be prescribed.
Exercising regularly and including as much sunlight as possible help regulate stress levels. Try getting enough sleep and go for healthy food.
You could also try buying a light box –a machine that mimics sunshine and boots your vitamin D levels. Spending 30 minutes a day in front of the light box will stimulate your circadian rhythm –your body clock– and suppress the release of melatonin.
You could also give aromatherapy a try as it can stimulate the area of the brain responsible for controlling mood.
The bottom line is that if you are feeling a bit under the weather, you could try walking for 15 or 20 minutes a day, getting as much sunlight as possible and stick to a healthy routine and you will surely start feeling better. If you are still experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression, always remember to consult a professional.
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