The holidays are meant to be a time of joy and happiness where people come together and enjoy the presence of family and friends. However, this is not the case for everyone. For some people the reduced daylight hours and the lack of sunlight actually cause them to develop a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In this article I will be discussing SAD in greater detail and hopefully help you avoid the condition this Christmas.
According to SADA, SAD affects approximately 7% of the UK population each year between the months of September and April. It is particularly prevalent in December, January and February. For these 7% it is a serious medical condition which prevents them from functioning normally. On top of this a further 17% of the UK population are believed to suffer from a milder form of SAD which is often referred to as the ‘winter blues’. SAD can affect all people but it is most common in 18-30 year olds. It is also very rare in people who live close to the equator as daylight hours are long, constant and bright.
So what exactly is SAD? As I already said it is a form of depression that is caused by the lack of sunlight in the winter months. When night falls the pineal gland starts to produce a substance called melatonin. This tells our body clock it is night time and makes us feel sleepy. Bright daylight acts as a trigger for the pineal gland to stop producing melatonin. However, in winter there is less daylight and the daylight we do get is often dull. For some people this level of light is not enough to completely halt the production of melatonin leading to a number of undesirable symptoms associated with SAD. These symptoms include:
- Carbohydrate Cravings.
– Concentration Problems.
– Depression (which can range from a slightly low mood to complete despair).
– Joint Pain.
– Loss of Libido.
– Sleep Problems.
– Stomach Problems.
– Weakened Immune System.
It is not known why SAD affects some people and not others but for those who do suffer the symptoms usually disappear in the first few weeks of spring in line with the brightening daylight. On top of there are a number of treatment options available. Light therapy is one of the most popular treatments and according to SADA it is effective for 85% of sufferers. This type of treatment involves purchasing a specially designed light box and then sitting two or three feet away from it for around 2 hours each day. However, this does not have to be as restrictive as it sounds. You can still perform other activities whilst receiving the light therapy, provided that you remain in a close vicinity to the box and that it is within your field of vision. Light therapy often proves effective within three or four days of starting the treatment so if you think you are suffering from SAD it is definitely an option worth considering. Other treatment options include anti-depressants and counselling.
Whether it manifests in a mild or more extreme form, if you find yourself suffering from any of the above SAD symptoms during this holiday period then you should go see your doctor right away and explain your concerns to them. SAD is highly treatable and in most cases light therapy can be the perfect remedy. Your doctor will be able to give you a fuller picture and recommend the best treatment for you. Follow the advice in this article, go see your doctor if necessary and stop SAD from ruining your Christmas.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have I missed out any important facts concerning SAD? Have you ever experienced this condition yourself? Are there any other treatments you would recommend? If so let me know by leaving a comment.
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