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Shining Some Light on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder is very uncommon in Bangladesh, owing to the fact that Bangladesh is a tropical country and here summers are long, winters are mild, spring is beautiful and autumn is colourful. But for those Bangladeshi expatriates living abroad, studying abroad and those thinking about migrating to countries such as US, Europe and Canada where there are long, harsh, cold winters, seasonal affective disorder is something everyone should be aware about.

When one comes from a tropical country, they usually do not expect the long winters that prevail in most of these countries. The days seem endless, dark and sunshine is barely seen during the winter months. It is thought that this lack of light is the main cause of seasonal affective disorder. And so its prevalence is more during the autumn and winter seaon.

You watch trees changing color and leaves falling… and just want to pull the covers back up over your head. As you drive home from your afternoon workout in darkness, you have to pull over to let yourself cry. You have no interest whatsoever in your husband touching you. It’s difficult to focus on anything. And if anyone says something to you (or sometimes just within your general vicinity), your immediate instinct is to snap at them.

Don’t look now, but it’s possible that you’re suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. This recognized psychological condition only makes people feel depressed during a specific season (typically winter), and 60 to 90% of the people who suffer from it are women.

Do You Really Have SAD?

Before you can adequately answer this question, you have to understand what is and isn’t SAD.

It is real. We’ve already mentioned that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a recognized medical condition, but it bears repeating since many people still insist on arguing that SAD is a “farce” and “everyone gets down.” This is absolutely false, and people who have SAD often struggle mightily to live normally when their seasonal depression kicks in.

It isn’t regular depression. If you find that you suffer from feelings of depression throughout the year but those feelings intensify during the winter or the holidays, this doesn’t mean that you have SAD. In order to be diagnosed with SAD, your depression has to be localized to a single season. Moreover, you need to have experienced this sadness during this time of year more often than it passed you by, and you must display symptoms for at least the last two years in a row.

It is likely a family problem. If you have a relative with Seasonal Affective Disorder, you’re more likely to get it yourself. Additionally, your chances of getting SAD increase if anyone in your family is an alcoholic or suffers from a depressive disorder.

It isn’t limited to the winter. While people who have SAD only experience depressive symptoms during one season of the year, it doesn’t necessarily have to occur in winter. This is true of most cases, but researchers believe there is also a version of SAD that affects people in the summer and causes them to experience manic episodes instead of depressive ones.

It is related to a lack of light. Experts believe a lack of light is what causes the effects that Seasonal Affective Disorder has on the brain in most cases. In other words, when we don’t get enough light, some of us go into a depressive state. This seems to bear out in the fact that low levels of vitamin D are often seen as signs that someone may have SAD.

It isn’t something cured by physical activity. Some people think there’s a simple cure for anyone’s malaise during the winter: make them get up and exercise. As silly as this may seem, there’s actually some basis in fact. People who suffer from a much milder form of seasonal depression, known as “winter blues,” can actually benefit from making themselves get up and move. Unfortunately, this does not work on SAD.

What Can You Do About SAD?

If you or someone you love does suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, you don’t have to sit there and wait it out. But what do you do if exercise and other forms of physical activity won’t help? There are three options that SAD sufferers have found to be helpful.

80% of people who engage in light therapy, where you are exposed to natural or artificial light every day for a specific period of time, found it to be beneficial within 2 to 4 days of beginning the treatment. Alternatively, there are people who find that their symptoms are reduced by attending counseling sessions with a therapist, and still others who simply remove the cause of the problem by traveling to a warmer climate where they won’t have to face the seasonal change.

Want to find out more about Seasonal Affective Disorder? Check out on the subject.

About the author

Maya Expert Team