The weekend is looming which means that the clocks are going to change. In autumn they 'fall back' meaning an extra hour in bed. That's great for some of us, but not so good for those among us who suffer with SAD, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
SAD is a condition in which a pattern occurs which sees sufferers experiencing symptoms of depression during the late autumn and winter months. Symptoms often onset as the days shorten, and are at their worst during the dark months of December, January and February. Sufferers often find that their symptoms improve in the spring and summer. The symptoms of SAD include feelings of sadness which have no obvious physical or emotional cause, and which last most of the time, lack of motivation, low self-esteem, tearfulness, difficulty in making even the smallest of decisions, insomnia, alterations in appetite and weight, decreased sex drive and despair or loss of hope.
In some cases, the depression may be so all consuming that it leads to thoughts of suicide and self-harm.
The exact causes of SAD are not known, though research is ongoing. One theory is that the reduction in daylight hours as the winter months approach results in an excess of melatonin being produced (melatonin being the hormone which in normal quantities induces sleep). The shorter days may also inhibit serotonin production. Serotonin is the hormone which elevates mood and stimulates appetite and it's generally acknowledged that low levels can lead to depression. Finally, it is believed that the shorter days and increased hours of darkness can affect the body’s circadian rhythms which is disruptive to the natural body clock.
Treatments for this debilitating condition include light therapy with daylight lamps, cognitive behavioural therapy and in more serious cases antidepressants may be prescribed. Reflexology can also help; it relaxes and reduces anxiety, helps with insomnia and boosts self esteem.
If you are experiencing symptoms it is important to seek medical advice from a qualified professional. Further information can be found by visiting the websites below.