Winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a reality and affects 1 in 15 individuals living in Britain. As the name suggests, the symptoms of SAD vary with seasons, with some individuals feeling their lowest in colder months while others feeling relieved after fighting with SAD in summers.
However, a rather interesting fact is that while we all are battling against those long, dark and cold nights with endless snowfall and freezing temperatures, not all of us suffer from the symptoms of SAD and can go about our lives fairly normally during this period.
But why is it that some people are relatively unaffected by SAD while others feel their life has come to a standstill?
We dug into the reasons and found a few facts that can be immensely useful in understanding why you might be more prone to SAD, and therefore, don’t feel like yourself in the colder months.
Your demographics are found to play an important role when it comes to the susceptibility to SAD. People inhabiting the Northern latitudes receive less sunlight and are therefore are more likely to be affected by SAD. Additionally, individuals between the ages of 18-30 are more prone to developing SAD while females are believed to be 4 times more likely to suffer from the disorder than males. Generally, it is found to begin during an individual’s early 20s and the risk gradually declines as the person ages.
Furthermore, the prevalence of SAD among children and adolescents cannot be fully disregarded although more research is required on the subject. SAD can affect a child’s performance in school as well as their overall mental and physical well-being which is why any symptoms that last for more than two weeks must be taken seriously.
In addition to demographics, an individual’s personality traits also put them at a higher risk for SAD. A study found that people who experienced symptoms of SAD were relatively more sensitive, open to new experiences and more welcoming to innovative and modern ideas as well as new behaviours. This is because being conscious of their surroundings makes such people highly aware of the changes around them, allowing these external changes (such as seasons) to affect them more than other individuals.
Additionally, people high in neuroticism (i.e. more sensitive to feelings such as anger, fear and jealousy) and those who use avoidance as a coping mechanism for dealing with stress are found to be relatively highly affected by SAD. Finally, people who suffer from mood swings on a daily basis are also found to be more prone to SAD.
SAD is more likely to affect individuals who have experienced some kind of trauma during winter months. These experiences can range from anything from the death of a loved one to a painful divorce. As the anniversaries for these past traumas approach, the affected individuals start reliving their painful memories and become traumatised.
These agonising reminders of what happened in the past can be too much for some people and lead them to experience symptoms of SAD.
There are certain gene variants that make an individual more susceptible to SAD than others. People who suffer from SAD are usually found to be genetically predisposed to be unable to regulate their circadian rhythms. This can become increasingly problematic when the circadian rhythms of a person are naturally disturbed as the days become shorter and sunlight becomes scarce.
Moreover, one’s family history or genetics can play a significant role in the onset of SAD. If you already have a family member who fights SAD or some other major form of depression, then you might be more prone to the disorder.
This one might seem bizarre at first, but your eye colour plays an important role in your susceptibility to SAD. Research has found that people who have brown or some other dark eye colour are more likely to develop SAD than their light-coloured counterparts. This is owing to the fact that people with light-coloured eyes do not need to process as much light as other eye colours to send important signals to the brain regarding daylight.
Consequently in winters when daylight is scarce, people with brown and dark-coloured eyes cannot process enough light to signal the brain that it is time to be up and about. This puts such individuals at a higher risk of developing symptoms of SAD such as depression, lethargy and an overall non-interested demeanour.
SAD is a reality that cannot be ignored. While some people are fortunate enough and have to deal with mere winter blues that improve as time passes, there are others who are stuck with depression and feel unable to proceed with their life in a normal manner during the colder months.
However, all is not lost and as I will be explaining in my next post, SAD symptoms can be managed with the help of some proven remedies. These remedies will not only allow you to be lessSAD but also help you enjoy the beautiful winter months to their fullest.
How do you deal with winter blues or SAD? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
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