What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?Arfaq Hussain
Or ‘SAD’ as it’s more commonly known – is a type of depression that becomes more enhanced with the changing of the seasons from summer to autumn and winter.
Sometimes referred to as ‘winter depression’, it more accurately begins to show within the UK during September – October as our bodies adjust to the cooler temperature, shorter days, and reduced amounts of sunlight.
The main cause of SAD is our bodies’ reaction to less sunlight as we move out of the summer months. Lack of sunlight causes problems in Vitamin D and Magnesium production, which is why sufferers are advised to increase both supplements during the autumn and winter months.
Lack of sunlight can also cause the overproduction of melatonin (the body’s natural sleep agent), causing people suffering from SAD to feel more sleepy and lethargic than when exposed to hours of daylight. (An increase in Vitamin D will assist to reverse this symptom, and so it’s vital that you adjust your Vitamin D levels during these months if you do suffer from ’SAD’).
A lack of sunlight can also lead to lower serotonin levels and is directly linked to depression. You can raise your serotonin naturally by increasing Vitamin D and Magnesium levels, increasing your levels of activity (walk outside for at least 30 minutes daily) and altering your diet to include foods rich in natural magnesium – nuts, dark leafy greens and dark chocolate are all excellent sources.
To assess whether you are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, take a look at the main symptoms below:
- Persistent Low Mood
- Loss Of Interest In Normal Daily Activities
- Inability To Complete Simple Daily Tasks
- Feelings Of Guilt, Worthlessness, Self-hatred and Despair
- Sleeping For Longer Than Normal, Including Sleeping During The Day
- Craving Carbohydrates, Gaining Weight
If you can recognise 3 or more of these symptoms within yourself it’s worth beginning the recommended actions above in terms of diet, exercise and vitamin intake immediately whilst also gaining immediate advice from your GP (always ask for a mental health / counselling referral so you’re referred to a professional who’ll be able to help).
If you’re a seasoned (forgive the pun) SAD sufferer, you’re presumably already stocking up on:
- Vitamin D, Magnesium, fruits and vegetables and planning to walk the dogs for a good 30 minutes a day (in sunlight, with your forearms exposed to suck up those valuable rays, if at all possible) and planning to attack this season rather than suffer from it.
- Always approach your GP and a mental health professional if you are coming across this for the first time, do not attempt to manage these symptoms alone unless you’ve previously been diagnosed and are confident in your ability to control it.