So it’s almost Christmas once again, the tree is up, presents wrapped, kids all doing shows and parties and we have a few places to go.
At this time of year most people may be stressed with shopping and spending etc but otherwise okay and looking forward to it all. However for some people (me included) this time of year can bring something not so nice with it and that thing is Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short.
For me the symptoms begin pretty much as the clocks change and the darkness and cold rolls in and gradually start to peak. The worst month for me is usually January, and I can certainly feel it peaking already.
Symptoms of SAD can include:
a persistent low mood
a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
I currently have all the symptoms which seem to be getting worse. I am already on anti depressants and have been since January (when it was at its worst) so these are keeping the low mood part at bay more than normal. I am constantly falling asleep no matter how much sleep I had the night before.
The exact causes of SAD are still unknown. It still seems to be a fairly new type of depressive disorder and was pretty unheard of when I was younger. It is still very misunderstood and even dismissed by many as being in the mind. SAD is totally different to the “Xmas/winter blues” which occurs once the Christmas festivities end.
The exact cause of SAD is often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days.
The main theory is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the…
production of melatonin – melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher than normal levels
production of serotonin – serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep; a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression
body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) –your body uses sunlight to time various important functions, such as when you wake up, so lower light levels during the winter may disrupt your body clock and lead to symptoms of SAD.
SAD can also run in families but I’m unsure if any of my relatives also suffer. I have suffered for many years, going right back to my teenage years. It starts October, peaks around December and at its worst in January. I start feeling a little better around March so I have a feeling it may be linked to both season and clock changes.
Many people may feel stupid going to the doctor for help but trust me it’s probably the best thing I did. It took me years to work out why I always felt so bad this time of year. Treatments include medication, cognitive therapy and light therapy via special light box lamps. I am yet to try the light therapy. Lifestyle changes also help, such as spending more time outside when it is light even tho it’s cold and exercise.
I don’t think I’ll ever be cured. I don’t mean to be depressed and unhappy year after year and do try to put a brave face on. I hid it for so long because I didn’t understand it, but now that I do I can only try to manage it year after year.
If your reading this and feel the same as I do year after year then know that your not alone and please go and speak to your doctor.