Not everyone dreads the onset of winter every year (hello, ice hockey and skate park fans). But life naturally runs at a slower pace in the winter. The days are getting shorter and shorter, the sun’s warmth becomes scarce, and most of us retreat into our cocoons. We’re cooped up in our blankets in front of the TV, living out the days in a way that could easily be called the human version of hibernation.
Some of these habits are universal and can be called the winter blues. However, if you resent going out, and feel grumpy, grumpy, and unmotivated in a way that gets in the way of your daily life, maybe something else is at play.
yes. Having trouble waking up during the winter, experiencing extreme tiredness during the day, and so much more has a name – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is a kind of depression related to the amount of daylight one is exposed to. Let’s understand seasonal affective disorder, its symptoms, and the treatment options available.
What is seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depressive disorder that comes and goes with the seasons. The condition was first named by Dr. N. Rosenthal. The typical time for symptoms to appear is around late fall or early winter when the days start to get shorter and the temperature drops. Symptoms can last all winter and into spring.
Symptoms can fluctuate in severity each year. Therefore, some years may have less severe symptoms than others, while symptoms may be absent in some. The summer season of all years is usually symptom-free. However, there is also a summer or spring version of the disorder called reverse seasonal affective disorder.
Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder
If you notice that your sleep patterns are disrupted, your productivity or energy level decreases, you have grumpy moods all winter long, and you may be suffering from social anxiety disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-V (DSM-V), a person must experience at least two years of seasonal depressive episodes to be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder.
The most common symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:
- low energy,
- increased appetite,
- carbohydrate cravings,
- Heavy feeling in arms, legs, etc.
Causes of seasonal affective disorder
Human brains evolved on a planet that constantly revolves around the sun. Throughout the process of evolution, the brain has used patterns of light and dark to align our biological and behavioral functions with it. This alignment is called the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is crucial to our mental health.
Seasonal affective disorder results from a disruption to a person’s normal circadian rhythm. Inadequate exposure to sunlight is the underlying cause of this disorder.
Sunlight stimulates certain cells in the human eye. These cells send a signal to our brain to produce serotonin. Serotonin is commonly called the happiness hormone. It evokes feelings of pleasure and happiness. On the other hand, the absence of sunlight at night leads to the formation of melatonin, which is responsible for the sleepiness we feel at the end of the day.
During the winter, because the days are shorter and people spend most of their time indoors, this circadian rhythm gets disrupted, causing serotonin levels to drop. According to a study Gupta and teamLow serotonin levels are associated with seasonal affective disorder.
Read more: What mental health needs is more sunlight.
Seasonal affective disorder is a treatable condition that responds well to many treatments.
Phototherapy is a form of therapy where a device gives off bright white light. The patient is exposed to light several times a day, according to the advice of specialists. General response to phototherapy appears within a week. However, some people may take up to four weeks to show any response.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is also an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder. It is even more effective when used in combination with light therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy involves identifying and treating the negative thought patterns that trigger seasonal affective disorder symptoms and eventually replacing them with positive ones.
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a classified depressive disorder that begins around winter. This is generally caused by the lack of exposure to sunlight during the winter season. However, with effective treatment and care, the disorder is a treatable condition, and people can successfully recover from it.
Therapy is a powerful tool for dealing with social anxiety disorder. Access to treatment has become more convenient and affordable with the advent of online therapy platforms. To learn about the most affordable online therapy platforms, click here.
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