Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as SAD, is one of the most devastating mental conditions.The good thing about it is that, unlike most mental conditions, its occurrence can be detected easily. Are you wondering how it’s possible? Well, we will be exposing its secrets soon.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that is characterised by depression that occurs at the same time every year. It normally occurs during the climate season when there is less sunlight. The important thing to note is that SAD is a seasonal mental illness; it starts and ends at about the same time every year. The symptoms mostly begin a few weeks into the rainy season and end when the rainy season is over. During this period, people affected by this sickness will have their energy drained; they start feeling moody. This sickness affects one’s concentration and peace of mind. Not only that, it affects those around its victim.
Causes of Seasonal Affective disorder
Unfortunately, scientists haven’t discovered the actual cause of SAD, but there have been some speculations about what triggers it in a person. Some of them include:
1. Melatonin Level: Melatonin is a hormone that controls the sleeping patterns and mood of human beings. Close to the period of its commencement when there is less light, SAD leads to an underproduction of melatonin, causing its victim to feel less sleepy; this slowly leads to unproductive days, which can slowly suck one into depression. Also, the overproduction of melatonin can lead to dopamine signalling, causing mood and behavioural changes.
2. Serotonin levels: As with melatonin, sunlight is needed by the human body to effectively produce the neurotransmitter known as Serotonin. “When sunlight enters your eyes, it stimulates the parts of your retina that then cue your brain to produce serotonin.” (Lotker, 2020). When there is less sunlight available for the body’s use, the level of serotonin in the body drops dramatically. A drop in the level of serotonin can lead to mood swings, which will eventually trigger depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
3. Circadian rhythm: Your body has a stipulated way of adapting to situations, but it normally takes a while to do so. That is why at the start of the rainy season, people can easily fall sick with malaria or anything else. It’s because their bodies had perfectly adapted to the sun, and when it changes, they need a few days or even weeks to adjust and adapt. The same thing occurs here. A decrease in sunlight affects our internal body’s clock and leads to feelings of depression.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective disorder
Symptoms of this mental illness start mildly, then becomes more serious as time progresses. These symptoms include:
1. Having difficulty concentrating
2. Feeling guilty and worthless
3. Harbouring suicidal thoughts
4. Loss of interest in everything
5. Having a low energy
6. Weight gain and weight loss
7. Craving for foods that are high in carbohydrate
8. Oversleeping and also difficulty in sleeping
9. Increased irritability, anxiety, and agitation
10. Poor appetite
Factors That Increase The Risk of Getting SAD
These factors include:
1. Low Level of Vitamin D: By this, we mean Vitamin D in your body’s systems. The level of vitamin D present in your body is directly related to the amount of sunlight your body has trapped. The presence of this supplement can help increase the level of serotonin in the human body.
Apart from getting vitamin D from the sun, you can also get it from the food you eat. Foods rich in vitamin D include oranges, sardines, eggs, liver, fish, and yoghurt.
2. Living in humid towns: SAD is mostly found in towns north or south of the equator. This is simply because these areas have a decreased amount of sunlight.
3. Being Depressed: If you already have conditions like bipolar Disorder or major depression, you may be more prone to having SAD in the rainy season.
4. Family History: Most mental conditions known are hereditary, and SAD is no exception. Either they have a blood relative with SAD or another form of depression.
Prevention and treatment
To prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), we advise doing the following things:
1. Use a lightbox before you start feeling the symptoms of SAD coming up.
2. Go out a lot.
3. Eat a well-balanced diet
4. Exercise often
5. Spend time with friends
6. Find help and consider medication (remember to consult a doctor before you take this option).
How to treat SAD
1. Use light therapy
2. Take antidepressants (ask a doctor).
3. Spend time outdoors
4. Go for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
5. Take lots of vitamin D