With the approach of winter, it is typical for SAD sufferers to struggle in their emotional, mental, and physical health. They may have difficulty dealing with the most ordinary tasks of daily life and experience a vague melancholy. Not only are they depressed, but they feel sluggish and irritable. They oversleep, crave carbohydrates, and overeat, according to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. In contrast, these same people may feel elated, active, and energetic during the summer months.
What causes SAD, sometimes called "the winter blues?" The consensus seems to be that inadequate sunlight is the culprit. Natural light is just as important to the body as proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise, and plays a vital part in synchronizing the body's daily biological clock. When mornings are dark and gloomy, some individuals don't receive a strong enough light signal to get them going. This results in chemical changes in the brain. SAD is more prevalent in Canada and the northern United States, where fall and winter are longer. However, although most of the literature refers to more northern districts, such as Alaska and Michigan, SAD also seems to affect people farther south, but to a lesser degree.
There may be another reason more people do not recognize SAD as the cause of their symptoms. During November and December the holidays bolster their spirits and carry them through until New Year's. They may be well into January before they realize they are depressed or anxious and that they don't have the energy or attitude they had during the warmer months. Before the SAD victim gets around to seeing a professional, spring has arrived and he feels better. To complicate things even more, some may attribute their lack of energy and blue mood to other causes, such as finances, a death in the family, or another stress factor that may be coinciding with the seasonal component. Once spring arrives, it is easier to cope with the stresses of life and the problem with depression seems to be resolved.
My next installment of Are You a Victim of Seasonal Affective Disorder? will examine some solutions for SAD sufferers.
© Laura Allen Nonemaker
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