What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Summer is undoubtedly the best season; I could list a million different activities like the Phineas and Ferb theme song, but I have reason to believe finding a dodo bird was unrealistic, so I won’t. Despite the endless possibilities of what you can do, what makes summer so enjoyable is simply that the sun is out. Even if ninety percent of the extended days are characterised by random whispers of “it’s boiling” there is a certain je ne sais quoi about the sun being out.

Science shows us that sunlight directly affects serotonin which is the chemical responsible for mood, social behaviour and appetite. The more sunlight you are exposed to the higher serotonin levels are hence the lighter mood we feel in mid-July. This simultaneously means the later months of the year can be a little heavier than usual.

With the shorter gloomier days comes less serotonin and often the following symptoms; persistent low moods, irritability, feelings of despair and worthlessness. These are some of the characteristics of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The autumn and winter months are the beginning of a new school year this often leads to SAD being misinterpreted as just fatigue or stress from your lectures, assignments or non-academic issues we all face in uni.

For this reason, it is important to check for any of the previously mentioned symptoms or skim read endless articles on google, in doing this it is however important to be honest with yourself about any behaviours that are out of character. Many people experience SAD, none of us are in this alone.

Now, how can you alleviate the symptoms?

  • Try to go outside as much as possible during daylight, your body will thank you
  • Try to eat well, the more vitamin rich food the better
  • Keep as much contact with friends and family as possible
  • Lastly, light therapy has been proved effective for treating SAD. This process is where an artificial lightbox is used to mimic sunlight; the most common use is for roughly 30 minutes each morning.

As with any other mood disorders there are different severities therefore contacting a doctor may be necessary. For the majority however, these remedies are effective. If you feel you might be a sufferer of SAD; open your curtains, try to do your Uni reading outside instead of in your room and remember there’s always someone to talk to if it all feels overwhelming.

 


Section: Science & Tech

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