Many of us have become aware of the acronym SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), a phenomenon associated with the onset of winter, and the reduced hours of available sunlight exposure. According to SADA, significant symptoms affect an estimated 7% of the UK population each year, with a further 17% suffering discomfort of a milder form.
SAD also shares other terms of reference, such as… Winter Blues or Winter Depression
Some of the symptoms can be:
- disturbed sleep patterns
- eating disorders
- altered moods
- reduced performance
- feeling lethargic
- social withdrawal
There is a science to the symptoms too!
A biochemical imbalance in the brain (hypothalamus), resulting from the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter. This reduces the amount of ‘feel-good’ hormones released into the bloodstream and for many is significantly disabling, and others at least causing discomfort and is mildly debilitating.
What treatment can help?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, treatment shown to demonstrate highly effective results, with 85% success reported, is light therapy. Exposure to light up to ten times brighter than ordinary domestic lighting, for up to four hours a day can bring rapid benefits.
How do we do this?
Specialist ‘light-boxes’ can be bought that can provide the necessary light required, in a safe way and that allows the sufferer to continue with activities involved sitting in the office, or at home.
What else can we do?
- psychotherapy, and other complementary therapies as these are effective in helping reduce distress
- exercise, even just getting out there, especially, but without restricting ourselves only to the sunnier days
- excellent nutrition
- medication, when carefully considered