Do you to feel a shift in energy levels as the winter approaches? Do you feel more drained with the change of seasons? The fluctuations in natural elements have a direct impact on chemical balances within your body, all of which is completely normal.
But at what point should you be concerned?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that unveils itself during the season change and can linger throughout some, if not most of that season. There are two types of SAD: winter & summer.
The focus of this article will be on winter seasonal affective disorder which occurs during the transition from fall to winter. It is very important to understand that it is normal to have a decrease in energy levels come winter. However, if it is (1) coupled with the below symptoms, (2) has persisted over two years without any other depressive episodes and (3) occurs and ends at the same time every year – then you should consult your doctor.
This subset of seasonal affective disorder is characterized by: irritability, tiredness, low energy, difficulty concentrating, difficulty waking up in the morning, nausea, decrease in sex drive, pessimism, hypersensitivity to rejection, heavy feeling in the arms or legs, oversleeping, appetite changes which can lead to weight gain – but most notably a desire to eat more carbohydrate heavy foods.
The specific causes of winter seasonal affective disorder are unknown. It is believed to be caused by changes in your biological clock caused by a decrease in sunlight which may disrupt your body’s internal clock. In prehistoric times, it has been argued that SAD is an evolved adaptation from the need to hibernate due to lack of food in the winter months, causing a drop in serotonin levels. Serotonin is a brain chemical known to affect your mood. The winter months can also affect serotonin levels due to a lack of sunlight.
There are many different treatment options available which include, but not limited to, light therapy, antidepressant medication, cognitive-behavioural therapy, ionized-air administration, carefully timed supplementation of melatonin and physical exercise.
My personal favorite remedy is physical exercise because it is the most natural way of combating the symptoms. Exercise has been proven to be as effective as medication in its antidepressant effects. It increases serotonin, dopamine and norepineprine levels. All of which have a positive effects on mood.
Yet another reason to keep up with your gym routine or get into one for the coming winter months!