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Are You Suffering From Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? All You Need to Know

There is a specific time frame where it is observed that people experience a change of mood, usually during fall and winter.

Published: January 26, 2022 12:45 PM IST

By Lifestyle Staff | Edited by Anjali Thakur

Are You Suffering From Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? All You Need to Know
Are You Suffering From Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? All You Need to Know (Picture credit: Pexels)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is known as a mood disorder that is characterized by depression that occurs at a specific time every year. It is also commonly known as ‘winter blues’, however, one can also experience these mood changes in summer, but is it rare. It gets triggered by a change in seasons. The mood changes that individual experiences are somewhat similar to Depression, where a person experiences sadness of mood & other symptoms.

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There is a specific time frame where it is observed that people experience a change of mood, usually during fall and winter. The symptoms can be distressing, overwhelming, and can also affect how a person feels, think and handles day-to-day activities.

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People who have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) may go through symptoms like Anxiety, irritability, restlessness, extreme fatigue, sugar cravings, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, inability to concentrate, loss of interest in everyday activities, social withdrawal, irregular sleep patterns, and decreased or increased appetite.

There are some theories that suggest the factors that might contribute to its cause. During the winter months, the exposure to sunlight is comparatively much lower than in the summer months. Due to less exposure to sunlight, a person’s circadian rhythm or the biological clock alters; this internal clock regulates hormones related to mood and sleep. Sun exposure also helps in the regulation of Serotonin, which is also called the ‘happiness hormone’. Sunlight also contributes to the production of Vitamin D in the body, and less sun can contribute to its deficiency which can affect mood. The hormone that makes us fall asleep is melatonin; the secretion of melatonin increases after the onset of darkness. Lack of sunlight in the winter months may contribute to over production of melatonin which in turn makes people feel inactive and sleepy.

People who are at risk of SAD commonly have comorbidity with other mental disorder such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders or panic disorders. Hereditary factors also play a role, if someone in the family has a condition of mental disorders, Depression or Schizophrenia, it might also contribute to the development of SAD.

  • Look For The Light: One of the primary causes of winter SAD is a lack of exposure to natural light. Putting in a little extra effort to wake up early and going outside in the sun, for as long as it lasts, can help you feel better.
  • Eat Well, And Avoid Carbs: According to research, people dealing with SAD consume more carbohydrate-rich foods, particularly starchy and sugary foods. It is essential to maintain a healthy diet in order to feel more energized. Vitamin D production in our bodies is insufficient during the winter months, as we get less and less sunlight. Vitamin D supplementation may also help to prevent and manage Depression, according to research.
  • Make Conscious Effort to be Active: Because tiredness and lethargy are the most common symptoms of SAD, experts recommend making an effort to be physically active to boost energy and improve mood.Research on SAD and the effects of exercise on the disorder shows that abnormalities in the body’s circadian rhythm may be responsible for low moods and other symptoms. Our sleep, eating, and activity patterns are all regulated by the circadian rhythm, which is based on day-night cycles.
  • Refrain from Reclusiveness: : On such gloomy, cold days, you may feel tempted to stay indoors and hide from the weather. Going out may feel impossible if you have more severe SAD symptoms, but in order to control the poor moods and lethargy, it is necessary avoid these lonely tendencies.

According to a study from the University of British Columbia in Canada, taking one minute each day to observe a feature in your natural surroundings and asking yourself what sensations it evokes can make you feel happier and more sociable. Staying in touch with friends and family, going out with them, and talking to trusted people about what you’re going through, may help manage with the effects of SAD. Furthermore, remember that help is always available for people who experience SAD.

(Inputs by Hirak Patel, Counselling Psychologist, Fortis Hospital Mulund, and Anubhuti Das, Counselling Psychologist, Department of Mental health and Behavioral Sciences at Fortis Hospital Mumbai) 

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Published Date: January 26, 2022 12:45 PM IST