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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Do you feel low during the winter months?

Who doesn’t feel a little bit more lethargic anda little less cheerful in the darker, cloudier months? Most of us prefer the brighter sunnier days of spring and summer but we get through the winter without any great problems.

However, if you suffer from S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder), winter can become much more of a problem to you. Symptoms vary in intensity but include loss of energy, fatigue, depression, sleeping problems and a craving for carbohydrates. You may suffer from these and feel you simply have to snap out of it. You may even think you are just being lazy or that you are starting to suffer from depression.

S.A.D. is actually the result of the increased production of melatonin caused by the lack of daylight during the winter. It is only by replacing this lost light by using bright light therapy that the body starts to produce enough serotonin again making you feel more energetic and less tired and gloomy. So no need to feel frustrated, embarrassed or guilty. 

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as the ‘winter blues’, is a condition caused by lack of exposure to sunlight. This occurs generally when the days get shorter and darker during the winter months, but can also be triggered by a move to a darker climate or a darker house or office. Light is instrumental in affecting the brain’s chemistry. This is connected to the production of melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is the hormone that is connected to sleep. This is produced in greater quantities in the dark. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that carries signals between the nerves in the brain, which is produced at lower levels in darker conditions. Lack of serotonin is known to be a cause of depression.

What are the symptoms?

  • Depression is the most striking symptom of S.A.D. Sufferers often experience a feeling of gloom and despondency for no apparent reason. This can of course have a knock on effect on relationships with partners, friends and work colleagues. This is especially significant in children who often do not associate what they are experiencing with an internal problem. A child may verbalise a cause for his symptoms i.e. relationships at school or at home.
  • Fatigue and lethargy are also symptoms and this can lead to inability to carry out normal routine. Normal tasks often seem more difficult and sufferers experience anxiety and feel unable to cope.
  • Despite this feeling of tiredness, S.A.D. sufferers often have difficulty sleeping or have disturbed nights, although they may struggle to stay awake during the day.
  • Inability to think clearly is another symptom as explained by Norman E Rosenthal: “It is very difficult, if not impossible, for them to summon up the information and knowledge needed for their work – or even casual conversations. They are not able to keep up with what is going on around them and what needs to be done”.
  • Socially S.A.D. sufferers often have a tremendous desire to hide away and curl up in the corner. They are reluctant to socialise and can be irritable.
  • Loss of libido has also been connected with S.A.D. and sufferers find that they are less interested in sex and physical contact.
  • Craving for carbohydrates is another symptom of this condition and is believed to be related to the attempt to replenish energy levels. Rosenthal studies showed that S.A.D. sufferers experienced increased energy after eating carbohydrates even though the opposite is experienced by people without this condition. This can, of course, lead to weight gain.
  • Some people can experience physical discomfort. This can vary from backache, muscle ache and headache to different types of infection.

Who gets S.A.D?

It is not yet fully understood why some people will get S.A.D. symptoms in winter while others will not. More research is going on in this field all the time.

What is the treatment for S.A.D?

Many sufferers know that they feel low in the winter months. Some may have had a name given to their condition but MOST people do not realise that there is an effective and painless treatment and that the treatment does work. Because S.A.D. is caused by lack of exposure to sunlight, it can sometimes be easily treated with bright light therapy. By simply sitting in front of a light box on a daily basis symptoms of S.A.D. can be drastically reduced or eliminated. Our S.A.D. products include light boxes

References: Some of the information for this page was taken from the book “Winter Blues” by Norman E Rosenthal.

Please note: Information included in this website is intended for information purposes only and is not to be used as a substitute for consultation with a medical practitioner. We cannot guarantee that the products recommended will be suitable for everyone with S.A.D or associated conditions.

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