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Why winter makes us so SAD, and how to handle the winter blues

https://thaidrokr.net/4/7475692


Today is the shortest day of the year (in the middle of winter), when some people may feel emotionally depressed and want to hibernate.

https://saicewheefe.net/4/7760664

While darker skies may make us feel a little flat, what if the weather causes too many duvet-less days? And how do you know if your mood is more than a case of the so-called “winter blues”?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a psychological condition more common in cold countries, but it also affects New Zealanders.

https://whoursie.com/4/7470781

Seven Sharp spoke to clinical psychologist Jacqui Maguire about the nuanced and misunderstood mood disorder.

What is seasonal affective disorder and why does it occur?

“Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs during the fall and winter months of the year. The idea behind it is that when we have fewer hours of sunlight, it can interact with our bodies in several ways,” Maguire said.

“It can affect our circadian rhythm, which controls our sleep-wake cycles. It can also interfere with hormones, such as melatonin, which regulates mood and sleep, or serotonin, a hormone that plays a role in our feelings of happiness and joy.”

How common is it in New Zealand?

“It’s a range. Reduced sunlight hours where you are in the world correlates with the risk of seasonal affective disorder.

“It can range between 1% and 9% [of the population]. “If you’re deep in the South Island, you might be at greater risk than someone in Fiji.”

What are some of the signs and symptoms?

“If you think about depression, common symptoms are: My mood is low; maybe I’m fatigued; and my energy is not where it normally is. I have sleep disturbances, a change in appetite, and I find it difficult to concentrate.

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“I want to socially distance myself from people. I get irritable and moody,” Maguire explained.

“The typical signs of depression are the same as those seen in SAD. The World Health Organization also says that sleeping too much, a high interest in carbohydrates, gaining weight, and having low energy are also specific signs of SAD.

“Think of it almost like human hibernation.”

What should I do if I suspect I am affected by SAD?

“The frontline call is always: if you’ve noticed a change in your mood, your body, how you feel or your desire to interact with the world around you, go and talk to your GP.

“No matter what we’re talking about, that’s always our first line,” Maguire added.

“If you can’t get to your primary care doctor, or are in an organization with an employee assistance program, talk to someone who may know something about seasonal affective disorder and can point you in the direction of strategies that might help.”

“We know what is effective for seasonal affective disorder,” Maguire said.

“The most evidence-based treatment for SAD is light box therapy: sitting in front of a really high lux light for a certain period of time several days a week to try to overcome that light deficit.

“Also, for some people, treatment may involve medications or talk therapy. Those are clinical strategies to help manage seasonal affective disorder,” he said.

“On top of that, there are all the things that we know promote healthy living, help improve mood, and are really important.

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“Even if it’s crappy weather outside, try to get outside, be in nature, exercise and fuel your body with good food, even if you feel like hiding inside,” Maguire advised.

“Go out and connect with people who are important to you.”

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