It’s that time of year when the gloom of winter is finally disappearing for many of us. The snow is melting, the sun is warmer, and a leisurely stroll around the block actually sounds appealing. For some of us, springtime means change. Change in the way we feel and think. Maybe you’re starting to feel less down and more energetic. Perhaps you’re not as reliant on long daytime naps anymore. There is a reason for this change if you are not already aware, and it is because of Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka S.A.D.
What Is S.A.D?
Seasonal Affective Disorder can be described as a kind of depression that comes and goes with the change of season. S.A.D begins and ends around the same time every year. For most people affected by S.A.D, their symptoms start to show around the fall and winter seasons, and they go away during spring and summer. But for others, it can be the other way around, with symptoms showing in the spring and summer, resolving in the fall and winter.
What Are The Symptoms?
The symptoms of S.A.D share commonality with other forms of depression. The main distinguishing factor that marks these symptoms as S.A.D is their cycle of coming and going with changes in seasons. Symptoms can include low energy during the day, extreme fatigue, sleeping over the normal amount, frequent naps, overeating and weight gain, loss of interest in activities, and difficulty staying focused and concentrated.
What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Specific causes for S.A.D are currently unknown; however, there are outlier factors that may come into play. The first factor is the body’s circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are a part of the body’s internal clock, operating on a 24-hour cycle. Examples of circadian rhythms in the body include the sleep-wake cycle and the body-temperature cycle. Circadian rhythms in the body are synchronized with a certain part of the brain. This part of the brain is heavily influenced by cues and signs from its surrounding environment, such as light. When fall and winter start to approach, the level of sunlight is reduced, which can disrupt the body’s internal clock. This can affect circadian rhythms such as the sleep-wake cycle, leading to symptoms of S.A.D. Another factor is the deficiency in Vitamin D. When the sun starts setting earlier, and it’s cold and gloomy outside, most people experience a lack of sunlight, and Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an important role in boosting serotonin levels, and if there is a deficiency in this vitamin, serotonin and mood is affected. This factor as well can lead to symptoms revolving around S.A.D.
What To Do If You Think You Are Affected By S.A.D.
If you believe you are suffering from severe S.A.D, a doctor should be consulted before self-diagnosing as there could be more complex mental health issues in hiding. However, a few ways you can help yourself improve symptoms is by getting sunlight and Vitamin D. Spend time outdoors, bundle up if it’s cold, and get some sunlight. Find ways to let more sunlight into your home or workspace. Vitamin D supplements can help improve symptoms as well.
No One Is In This Alone
Seasonal Affective Disorder affects many people, so don’t feel alone if you are one of these people. 15% of Canadians experience mild S.A.D, and 2-3% of Canadians experience S.A.D in their lifetime. Never be afraid to reach out to someone for help if need be. If you know someone who may be affected, don’t be afraid to reach out to them and see if you can help. It could make a huge difference.