Loss of energy
Oversleeping (feeling like you want to hibernate)
Loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy
Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates such as pastas, rice, bread and cereal
Difficulty concentrating and processing information
Okay, so there are lots of other reasons for these symptoms. But if they are chronic and recur year after year (and then disappear in the summer) there’s a good chance you are affected. One study found that the persistent and cyclical symptoms were lowest in Florida (about 1% of the population) and highest in New Hampshire (almost 10%). (Friedman, Richard A. “Brought on by Darkness, Disorder Needs Light”. New York Times’’, 2007-12-18) .If you want to see the difference between the two states just look at a weather map.
So, what causes SAD? Experts disagree but one perspective relates to decreased melatonin production in the body during those shorter, cloudy days of winter. Melatonin helps balance body-rhythms—including sleep and wakefulness, moods and alertness. When melatonin production decreases so does serotonin efficiency. I call serotonin the “I’m Okay Chemical” of the body. It is implicated in many forms of depression and anxiety. When you have serotonin imbalance it makes you feel like all is NOT okay.
So, what can you do about it if you have SAD? Though most people just push through, for some, SAD is so debilitating they need help. The old standbys of healthy diet and vigorous exercise are a good start. But if you are feeling extra helpless and incapacitated by the winter blues, you may need to talk to someone about it. This is definitely the case if you are in the small percentage of SAD sufferers for whom the symptoms turn self and socially destructive.