It is not uncommon to feel a bit fed up over the winter. The weather is cold and miserable and our mood seems to drop as the days shorten, leaving us flat and lacking in motivation. What makes things worse is leaving the house in darkness, spending all day in an artificially lit office, and then returning home in the dark once again. But aside from the thought of all the expense of Christmas just around the corner, there is a scientific reason behind low mood and seasonal depression: a condition called SAD is often the cause, so find out more about seasonal affective disorder statistics and how to combat the effects.
Depression can occur at any time, but if you notice that your low mood symptoms seem to be a lot more prevalent during the winter, you could be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The symptoms of SAD tend to be cyclical and return each year, typically during the winter months, although some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder during the summer months instead.
Seasonal affective disorder statistics
Statistics surrounding seasonal affective disorder show that around 6% of people in the United States will suffer from the symptoms of SAD during the winter months and a further 10-20% may suffer from a very mild form of the disorder. Research has also indicated that women are more likely to develop the disorder and the symptoms are not normally seen in people younger than the age of twenty.
Seasonal affective disorder statistics and geography
Seasonal affective disorder statistics indicate that the number of cases of SAD is much higher in countries in the northern hemisphere and the farther north you travel, the more common the disorder is, probably as a result of the shorter days over winter in the northern hemisphere.
What causes seasonal affective disorder?
Because the majority of cases of seasonal affective disorder occur during the winter months, the condition is believed to be caused by a disruption to our natural circadian rhythms. Experts think this occurs because we are exposed to less sunlight during winter, which leads to a rise in melatonin, a natural chemical that makes us feel drowsy in the evenings. There is also evidence to suggest that the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are linked to a drop in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to control our moods.
Is there a cure for seasonal affective disorder?
There are several different types of treatment you can try to relieve the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Spending more time in natural daylight will help, but if this is not possible, a light box can significantly reduce symptoms and is the first treatment most people will be offered—light therapy involves sitting in front of a special light box that emits a bright light.
Medications can also be used to treat seasonal affective disorder. Anti depressants, including Prozac and Zoloft, can help to prevent depression caused by SAD, although you may have to try several different medications in order to find the one that works for you. Psychotherapy can be used in tandem with medications and light therapy to help manage stress and other lifestyle factors that may be contributing to seasonal affective disorder.