Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder which most often occurs in women, adolescents and young adults. It is not uncommon for people to experience seasonal fluctuation in moods. You may have noticed how a grey, rainy day makes you feel gloomy, while a sunny day can leave you feeling cheerful. These symptoms occur at the same time each year. Most people feel low during the darker, shorter days of winter.
Why does it happen in winters?
Seasonal affective disorder is believed to be caused by a disturbance in the normal circadian rhythm of the body. Circadian rhythm or circadian cycle is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. It repeats roughly every 24 hours. Sunlight entering through the eyes influences this rhythm.
It usually happens in winters because the days are shorter, and the nights are longer. The cold climate keeps people holed up indoors instead of outside, absorbing sunlight. Insufficient exposure to sunlight leads to low levels of melatonin. This may affect your biological clock that regulates hormones, sleep, and mood. It may also reduce the level of serotonin, the feel good hormone in your body which increases your likelihood of experiencing this mood disorder.
People who live in parts of the country that have long winter nights and less sunlight may experience this condition. For example, people residing in Srinagar or Ladakh are more susceptible to experiencing SAD. People in Pondicherry or Goa may have better energy levels.
Symptoms of wintertime SAD
Seasonal Affective Disorder during winters can result in:
- Daytime fatigue
- Interpersonal difficulties (especially rejection sensitivity)
- A heavy, leaden feeling in the arms or legs
- Increased carbohydrate cravings leading to weight gain
- Lack of interest in social activities
- The feeling that you’ll never be warm or see the sun again
- Reduced sexual interest
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Increased irritability
Can you experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in summers?
Although most people experience SAD in winters, it is not uncommon to experience it during summers. People with bipolar disorder are more prone to having seasonal depression, especially during the summers. It is common knowledge that for people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, manic episodes peak in spring and summertime.
Symptoms of summertime SAD
SAD during summers can result in:
- Weight loss
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Lack of appetite
- Increased restlessness
Read self care tips that help!
Triggers for Seasonal Affective Disorder in summers
- Social events
With more social events taking place in the summer, there are more opportunities to attend barbecues, marriages or other gatherings where alcohol is typically served. Drinking too many alcoholic beverages can contribute to feeling depressed.
- Daylight Patterns
Sometimes, longer summer hours can throw people off by keeping them active for more hours. This can affect sleep schedule and the quality of sleep.
- Schedule Changes
People with seasonal occupations, such as teachers, may feel out of sorts due to loss of structure in the summer. Even slight changes in schedule can impact mental health.
For office workers, workflow might change. If other people are out, you may be doing extra work to compensate which leaves you feeling tired and irritated.
Typically, you think of vacations as relaxing and calming, but for some people they can cause a lot of anxiety and stress due to the added stress of planning everything in advance. You may also be worried about spending too much money while on vacation. People are also forced to go on vacations with certain family members or friends they’re not comfortable with, and this might be difficult or stressful.
Treatments for SAD (wintertime and summertime)
Seasonal Affective Disorder responds well to therapy and treatment. The most commonly used treatments for SAD include light therapy, medication, and psychotherapy.
Light therapy is used for treating wintertime SAD and it uses a specialized light box or visor for at least 30 minutes each day to replicate natural light.
Light therapy must be used only under a doctor’s supervision and on approved devices.
Healthy lifestyle habits can also help minimize SAD symptoms. These can include:
- healthy diet with lean protein, fruits, and vegetables
- regular sleep
The priority, in this blog, is to supply the reader with clear and unambiguous information. However, neither The New Me nor Gagan Dhawan makes promises, or guarantees regarding the completeness of the information found here. The content is not a replacement for advice of a licensed professional. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the writer’s.