Clue up on SAD : It affects more of us than you think.

As I woke up this morning, I realized that something was different. I ‘m not talking here about the aging process here but the sudden change in the weather. Summer had seemed to turn into fall overnight. Drizzly rain, dark clouds and that nip in the air. Realistically there is a good chance that the warmer weather will return before fall really sets in but it gave me a taste of things to come. This time of year tends to be a time when, as a psychologist, I become a little busier as the more positive thoughts associated with summer tend to start fading with the amount of sunlight available. This is prime time for the onset of SAD, commonly known as seasonal affective disorder or the winter blues. It strikes like the clock for many people exactly as the weather starts to change and like clockwork, returns every year. Sufferers complain of limited energy levels, mood swings and low-level depression, usually from early fall through winter to the start of spring. In rarer cases, some can suffer in spring until early summer. For anyone afflicted with this, it can seem as if their life is attached solely to the changing of the seasons and some clients that I have known who battle with this say that eventually they become generally depressed during summer as well as they wait for the inevitable to arrive.

No-one is really sure why SAD affects so many people but the most popular theory and the one most likely is that it is associated with reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of the year. This theory makes sense due to the fact that sunlight is known to affect some of the brain’s chemicals and hormones, though it is not yet clear how and what effect this has. One theory is that light stimulates a part of the brain called the hypothalamus which controls mood, appetite and sleep. These things can affect how you feel. It is thought that the combination of lack of sunlight with the inability to produce certain chemicals that stimulate the hypothalamus produces a situation that affects the production of the hormones melatonin and serotonin and consequently affects the body’s circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock, which regulates several biological processes during a 24-hour period. This could explain why many sufferers feel the need to sleep more and have trouble rising on dark mornings. However, research is ongoing.

More of us are affected by SAD than we realize. The NHS in the UK estimates that  SAD affects around 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million people across Northern Europe and it mostly affects people between the ages of 18-30 but there are also cases of children and pensioners suffering and under treatment too. These are just the ones who have sought treatment. As for treatment, the most common and effective for many people is the use of light boxes in light or phototherapy. These simulate the natural daylight needed to produce the hormones needed in the process described above. It calls for regular daily “sittings” under a desk lamp or wall-mounted light. Some even like to be woken by “natural light” alarm clocks that slowly flood the room with simulated daylight. These solutions are often combined with an exercise regime and an analysis of dietary requirements due to the fact that many sufferers have a tendency to gain weight. Talking therapies and counseling are often prescribed as well. Something that must be noted at this point is that even someone who is generally not depressed can still be afflicted with other symptoms associated with SAD. GP’s will also generally run blood tests to check for signs of thyroid issues as the symptoms are similar in some cases.

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a Counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals, couples, groups and companies. Apart from seeing clients face-to-face, Dr Jenner also runs a thriving online therapy business bringing help to those who are housebound or located in rural locations where therapy is difficult to find. He can be booked for online sessions from anywhere in the world. First consultation free. For more information , follow the link to his website HERE

Want to know more about Dr Nicholas Jenner? Check out what his clients say….HERE

  10 comments for “Clue up on SAD : It affects more of us than you think.

  1. September 5, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Yes, SAD is starting here too. I am armed with daylight lamps, extra vitamin D (prescribed), a regular bedtime schedule, regular exercise, and an optimistic attitude that I can make it until spring!

  2. September 5, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    I was born and raised in Sunny Cyprus, my body has never forgotten this 🙂 I have sad very slightly. I use a lamp as the light fails. Other tools that help me are planning ahead and looking forward to fun times, accepting the limitations of the season and trying to accept it as a period of renewal and taking stock. I also take a vacation someplace sunny every feb without fail.

    • September 6, 2012 at 7:49 am

      If you really know that you will suffer annually from SAD, then it is a case of preparation, accepting and taking steps to alleviate it.

  3. September 6, 2012 at 1:05 am

    I have an employee that really suffers when the sunshine, shines less. He struggles with the time change and his peppy personality slips into a cocoon until spring arrives.

  4. September 6, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Very interesting read – thank you.

    I learned a little more about SAD.

    Keep up the good work 😉

  5. September 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    I don’t know if I am a SAD sufferer, as my symptoms are not strictly seasonal. Having just come out of a three week period of mostly rain and grey skies here, I can report that it definitely took it’s toll with fatigue, lack of interest in most anything, and a battle to maintain a positive attitude. I think of it as a sunshine/vitamin D deficiency. I was just about to go get some artificial sunshine in a tanning booth when the skies cleared up some and my mood followed. Thanks for this post!

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