Days are getting longer now that the winter solstice has come and gone, but you're still getting short-changed on sunlight.
Many people notice that this lack affects their mood, passing it off as nothing more than "winter blues," but if these winter blues arrive and ease around the same dates several years in a row, it could herald a more serious mood disorder: Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD).
What Is SAD?
Seasonal Affect Disorder is a sub-type of depression characterized by symptoms that are seasonally specific rather than year-long. Fall/winter onset SAD is most common; a smaller percentage of those diagnosed instead see the onset of symptoms during spring and summer.
While doctors still aren't completely sure of the root causes of SAD, reduced exposure to sunlight does seem to be a major factor according to the Mayo Clinic, throwing your sleep/wake cycle out of sync by prompting your brain to boost melatonin levels--your brain naturally wants you to sleep when it's dark outside--and reducing production of serotonin, a hormone that regulate your moods.
Who Can Have SAD?
Everyone is potentially at risk for SAD, but certain factors increase your likelihood of having the disorder:
- Being a woman. The Mayo Clinic notes that although SAD appears to be more frequent in women (up to seventy-five percent of known cases are diagnosed in women), "men tend to have more-severe symptoms."
- Latitude. The farther north or south of the equator you live, the more likely you are to develop SAD; these regions have more extreme seasonal fluctuations in exposure to sunlight for longer periods of time.
- Age. SAD tends to be more frequent in young people, and the age of initial onset is usually between 18 and 30.
If you're prone to feeling "down" or "off" during fall and winter, don't just write it off as yet another seasonal annoyance. Take this quiz and see if you might have Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). Of course, you can always use the form above if you'd like to ask a licensed acupuncturist any questions about mood, depresseion, or SAD. We hope to hear from you!