Thursday, August 20, 2009

S.A.D. makes me sad

I know, I know, SAD is something that you would normally associate with a country shrouded in darkness for half the year, not a country like Australia. Although its not prevalent here, its still estimated that 1 in 300 Australians experience "winter blues" to some extent.

Beyond Blue has this to say about Seasonal Affective Disorder:

Seasonal Affective Disorder - More than the Winter Blues

It's not unusual for people to dread the passing of summer and the onset of winter. Balmy nights spent outdoors are replaced by colder, darker evenings which force people to spend more time indoors.

For some people however, disliking winter can be much more than simply missing warm weather and summer activities. Winter can become a severely debilitating and isolating time as they try to manage symptoms associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - but is it depression?

Associate Professor Michael Baigent, Clinical Advisor to beyondblue says SAD is a depressive illness that has a seasonal pattern. It's characterised by mood disturbances that begin in winter and subside when the season ends. It's usually diagnosed after the person has had the same symptoms during winter for a couple of years.

"The behaviour associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder is quite different from the mood changes a lot of people feel because of the change of season and the disruptions to their summer lifestyle. With SAD, the depression symptoms are more about 'slowing down'. People sleep more, eat more and usually crave carbohydrates which leads to weight gain. They'll have a lot less energy and won't want to spend time with others. SAD has a cluster of symptoms that makes the person look like they are going into 'hibernation'," Dr Baigent said.

The cause of the disorder is believed to be a lack of exposure to light. There is a much higher prevalence of SAD in countries with shorter days and longer periods of darkness such as Finland, Alaska and northern parts of Russia.

The pineal gland, located in the middle of the brain responds to darkness by secreting melatonin which regulates daily biorhythms including the sleep/wake cycle. It's believed that when this is out of balance, SAD can occur.

"It's important for people to get up in the morning and get some exposure to sunlight, ideally before 8am. Dawn and morning light is believed to be integral in regulating our biorhythms. Combining this with exercise is really important. If people feel this is not helping they should go to their doctor for more advice," Dr Baigent said.

On the whole I dont have too much of a problem with SAD. I try to spend time outside everyday but when its cold and uncomfortable outside its not really something you want to do. I also find that by about July my body has simply had enough and hibernation mode really takes over. I find it incredibly difficult to do just about anything. I find that even after a good nights sleep I'm still tired. And lets not talk about weight gain shall we...

So this is why I've had a month off so to speak. As spring gradually starts to take over I'm finding that my enthusiasm is once again on the up, starting in the garden (how could it not with all the beautiful spring blossoms starting to come out) but now progressing to inside activities too. And nothing beats waking up to daylight, absolutely nothing!!!


Peta said...

We covered S.A.D in my 1st year of university (psychology)...indeed it is a very real disorder, and once one reads all the in's and out's of the disorder, I actually wonder if there are alot more people (especially women)whom are simply unaware, but do suffer the symptoms of S.A.D.

Let me know if you would like me to send the info to the meantime like you I hope the sunlight comes soon xxx

Sally said...

O - so glad to see that you're posting again. I do enjoy ready your blog.
Totally agree that S.A.D. is a very real disorder that affects people in Australia too... bring on spring!!!

Sally said...

Actually - I enjoy 'reading' your blog... and will blame my typo on all the recent rain making my spelling a little sad too.
(I should probably go to bed earlier aswell!)

Bridgie Didge said...

Yup! I am another SAD sufferer. I hate it hate it hate it. It's only just in the past week that I have felt more enthusiastic about things. Then the weather went and got all miserable again - sigh. It will be over soon.

PinkLizzy said...

I get it in Summer. Seriously. The Brisbane summer wilts me into an emotional and hot sore tired mess. I love winter and cold fresh air but when the air is still and hot and full of smog I get very very sad.