As days become shorter and cold winter weather takes hold, many people start to feel its effects by changes in their mood. For some people, they may be elated and happy to see the first snowfall of the season. They might enjoy getting out and ice skating, playing hockey, or skiing.
For some people, they experience what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that typically is short-lived and only lasts during the winter months. As soon as spring arrives, most people’s moods and depressive state quickly brighten up with warmer weather and longer days.
What Causes SAD?
Our bodies go through different chemical changes that affect our mods. When colder weather arrives and brings shorter days with less light, for people with SAD it is believed that they have difficulties adjusting based on several internal factors including:
- Serotonin Levels – Serotonin is a chemical found in the brain. When it is being released correctly or is at a higher level, it helps boosts our moods and makes us feel happy, excited, elated, and other such feelings. When its levels are lower or serotonin is not being released as it should, it can cause us to feel down and blue.
- Melatonin Levels – Low melatonin levels can affect sleep cycles. Melatonin is produced by the body at night and at lower light levels and stops when light levels increase and during the day. However, in people with SAD, their melatonin levels are already low. So, their sleep cycles can be off where they sleep more during the day and less at night.
- Circadian Rhythms – Our bodies have an inner clock that is regulated by circadian rhythms. This internal clock triggers the release of various hormones that affects everything from our appetite to our sleep cycles. In people with SAD, their circadian rhythms are out of sync.
What Are Some Common Symptoms of SAD?
Those with a family history of depression can have increased risks of SAD. Living in areas where sunlight is greatly reduced in winter can also increase the risk of SAD. Other common symptoms to watch for include:
- Problems focusing at work or school.
- Withdrawing from social settings and gatherings.
- Feeling anxious and nervous, even when alone.
- Eating when we are not hungry.
- Noticeable weight gain.
- Feeling agitated, irritated, and restless.
- Having problems sleeping at night.
- Going through extended periods where you feel sad, down, or depressed.
- A noticeable change in your ambition and energy levels.
How to Overcome SAD
SAD treatments involve using various methods and changes to your lifestyle. You may require supplements to help with serotine production and restore melatonin levels. Many people benefit from one-on-one counselling sessions with a qualified counsellor.
Counselling helps identify various things that can trigger your SAD, as well as helps you recognize things you can do to help beat overcome it. If you are feeling blue, or believe you have SAD and want to speak to a counsellor in Toronto, please feel free to contact Ellen Starr at 416-488-3102 today!