Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a condition that affects people during the winter months in parts of the globe that experience colder climates and shorter days. It’s also less commonly referred to as the winter blues or winter depression and is estimated to impact as many as 29% of Brits with 8% of those people experiencing acute symptoms and the remaining 21% suffering from minor forms of SAD.
Although there have been no definitive studies, it’s widely believed that the onset of SAD is due to the lack of sunlight and the body’s inability to produce certain key hormones and neurotransmitters that are integral for good mental health. Studies have shown the lack of sunlight inhibits the hypothalamus area of the brain, which in turn affects the:
production of melatonin – this is the hormone used to regulate sleep patterns, and is found in higher amounts in those with SAD.
production of serotonin – this regulates your mood, appetite and sleep, meaning when there is a deficiency, it throws the whole body out of alignment.
The body’s circadian rhythm – this is essentially your internal body clock and is responsible for when the body feels tired.
Fortunately, there are several options for alleviating SAD. Here are some of the most effective and widely available:
Taking a Vitamin D Supplement
Before you take more invasive and expensive action, it’s worth checking with your doctor to see is your case of SAD is the result of a Vitamin D deficiency. As sunlight provides us with the majority of our intake, when it disappears, so does most people’s primary source of this essential vitamin. Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive and fast-acting, especially if using an oral spray.
Since SAD has been linked with the absence of sunlight, light therapy has proved to be an effective treatment in helping those with both mild and acute symptoms. Taking part in treatment sees you either sit, on, or near a ‘light therapy box.’ Tackling your SAD in this way allows you to avoid taking antidepressants or significantly reduce the dosage.
Arts and Creative Therapies
Creative therapies are another non-invasive way of boosting your mood during the winter months. But they’re regarded as more of a complementary treatment than a standalone one. You’d stand to gain the most benefit from art therapy by combining it with one or more of the other approaches listed here.
This would be the typical route you doctor might suggest you go for SAD if you haven’t responded positively to any of the more natural alternatives. SSRI’s stand for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and help to regulate the production of serotonin (the brain’s happy chemical), which can become depleted in people with SAD during the winter months.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
This is a form of short-term talk therapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative behavioural patterns. And it’s proved to be highly effective in treating a host of mental health issues, including SAD. A recent study found 80% of a test group given both CBT and light therapy went onto experience a complete remission.
About the author:
Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.
***If you feel like you’re struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder and would benefit from speaking to someone about your situation, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here.
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