In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.
Winter is here. And as the days draw in, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) raises its disconsolate head. You may feel melancholic, low and dejected, with no energy. You may have SAD.
SAD, in essence, it is a form of winter depression, the symptoms of which may include:
You should consider seeing your GP if you think you might have SAD and you're struggling to cope. Your GP can carry out an assessment to check your mental health. They may ask you about your mood, lifestyle, eating habits and sleeping patterns, plus any seasonal changes in your thoughts and behaviour.
It's not fully understand what causes SAD, but the reduced amount of sunlight in winter seems to be important. It's thought that a lack of sunlight might stop the hypothalamus (part of the brain) working properly which, in turn, may affect the:
It's also possible that some people are more vulnerable to SAD as a result of their genes, as some cases appear to run in families. People living in very northern areas do not appear to suffer more SAD than people living further south, so other factors may also be important.
Research has shown that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) symptoms in the winter are associated with an increase in cerebral serotonin transporter (SERT) binding (or something that increases the binding of serotonin to a protein that transports serotonin around the brain). A new study found that people who were resilient to SAD "downregulated" their levels of the serotonin transporter during the winter. These findings offer good grounds for treatment of SAD with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) - a form of antidepressant.
SAD is most common in women during the years when they can have children. It's about three times more common in women than it is in men. SAD is less common in children and, in older adults, it affects men and women equally.
In the UK, about three people in every 100 have significant winter depression.
The main treatments for SAD are: