Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a depression that is related to darkness. In winters, the days are shorter and people spend most of their time indoors. This routine decreases the exposure to sunlight which creates certain hormonal imbalances. These imbalances can thus put a person in a depression which can range from mild to severe and should be treated.

It is a mood disorder affecting people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year, but experience symptoms of depression in a particular season, usually winter (but may also be any of the others). This disorder occurs only during a given time of the year and you go back to being normal throughout the rest of the year.

Anyone can get SAD, but it’s more common in women than men. It is also more likely to affect you if you live far from the equator, where winter daylight hours are very short. You are more likely to experience SAD if you are between the ages of fifteen and fifty five. The risk of getting SAD is low amongst older people.

According to Ms. Fariha Naz, a clinical psychologist in Lahore, “Winter depression can be as severe as any major depressive episode and requires serious attention and therapies. “

According to her, this is not an adult-only condition, even teeens can suffer from it, and parents, having no idea about the condition, may deal with youngsters in a way that may lead to further problems. Moreover, a person is at a higher risk of having SAD if he/she has close relatives suffering from the same problem.

While there is no official record of people suffering from SAD in Pakistan, there is enough evidence to suggest that we have an alarmingly high percentage of people suffering from some depressive disorder.

According to the Pakistan Medical Association, depression in Pakistan is much higher than the world average, and the situation is alarming in urban than the rural areas. According to PMA report, around 35.7 percent citizens of Karachi are affected with mental illness, while 43pc people in Quetta and 53.4pc in Lahore are also affected.

We discussed the SAD syndrome with a few experts and sought their advice on the subject. Below is the summary of advice they offered.

1. Take a Balanced Diet

SAD is a form of depression which means that people suffering have low levels of cortisol and adrenaline. As a result, people with SAD, crave more carbohydrates because they give an instant rush of energy. The energy given by carbs, however, is temporary and soon the lethargy kicks in because of overeating making SAD worse. It is thus important to be conscious of one’s dietary choices

SAD is a disorder of the winter season. During winters the exposure to light is at a minimum. Vitamin D production in the body requires light and a deficiency can easily develop during those long cold nights. It is thus necessary to incorporate foods that can help fulfil vitamin D. Fish, eggs, citrus fruits and mushrooms are good sources of vitamin.

These foods not only help with the vitamin deficiency but are also low on carbs. These foods provide steady levels of energy which can make a patient feel better.

2. Exercise Regularly

The main symptoms of SAD are fatigue, laziness, and lethargy. These symptoms only get worse if the patients do not exercise. Therefore, it is necessary to incorporate at least thirty minutes of exercise in the daily routine. Exercise keeps one active and feel-good hormones are released post-workout. These hormones can help fight off the sadness that comes with winter depression.

3. Take a Sunbath

The root cause of SAD is lack of sunlight. Sunlight is not only important for vitamin production; it also plays a part in the functioning of the thyroid. Thyroid is responsible for activating several hormone-producing reactions in the body. Scientists believe that the hormonal imbalance caused by the lack of sunlight might be the actual cause of SAD.

Light therapy can be a very beneficial alternate to sunlight. Get a light box according to the prescription of a doctor. Sitting in front of the light box for 30-90 minutes daily can vastly improve the symptoms of SAD.

4. Change Your Lifestyle

For a person suffering from SAD, getting out of bed may seem impossible. Cold weather may tempt the patient to stay in bed all day. A conscious effort to fight this urge is required in order to fight with SAD. Some activity should be maintained even on the coldest of days.

Getting out for a leisure walk or friends meet up can help the patient recover from SAD rapidly. If you are experiencing symptoms of the seasonal affective disorder, you should find a psychologist nearby, and book an appointment. Thanks to the technology and services like oladoc, now you can easily find a psychologist in Lahore, Karachi, and even in smaller cities.

If you like this article, please share with friends and family, and help them cop with the seasonal depression.