Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that manifests at specific times of the year. If you did not know, we are five days away from the autumn solstice (September 23). Slowly, our days will get shorter, and we will get less sunlight as the northern hemisphere prepares for winter.
While many individuals may feel slightly despondent during the colder, darker seasons, those with SAD experience more pronounced symptoms that can substantially disrupt their daily routines.
One of the primary theories behind SAD is its relationship to light exposure. Research supports the idea that photoperiod, or the duration of daylight, is linked to the onset of SAD. Reduced sunlight can lead to a drop in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood, and an increase in melatonin, which regulates sleep and can cause feelings of lethargy.
If you track your heart rate variability, like I do, you will start to notice a dip in your numbers. Heart rate variability indicates the state of your autonomous nervous system.
Some studies suggest that anniversary reactions, which are emotional responses to the anniversary of a significant event, may be a subgroup of seasonal mood disorders. These reactions can manifest as both depressive and manic episodes, primarily driven by psychological factors rather than climatic conditions.
Individuals with SAD have been found to exhibit impairments in working memory, cognitive processing speed, and motor speed. These cognitive deficits are present not just in winter but also during the summer months, indicating that they are inherent traits of SAD.
SAD is more prevalent among young adults and women. Although it can manifest in children and adolescents, it is less common in these age groups.
The field of SAD research is vast and sometimes fragmented. Some studies have even questioned the validity of SAD as a distinct disorder. However, it's essential to note that the majority of research supports the existence of SAD as a genuine condition, with many similarities across different studies.
It's also worth noting that SAD represents the extreme end of the spectrum of seasonality and affects a significant portion of the general population. Personally, I try to spend a lot of my time in the sun. If you are unable to consider using a light of at least 10,000 lumens to illuminate your surroundings for at least 20–30 minutes a day,