At the beginning of this month, those of us living in the south eastern states of Australia were treated to an extra hour of sleep as we said goodbye to daylight savings and began the slide into winter.
It’s not unusual for people to dread the passing of summer and the onset of winter. Warm summer nights spent outdoors are replaced by colder, darker evenings which force people to spend more time indoors. For some people however, disliking winter can be much more than simply missing warm weather and summer activities. Winter can become a severely debilitating and isolating time as they try to manage symptoms associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – but is it depression?
Associate Professor Michael Baigent, Clinical Advisor to beyondblue says SAD is a depressive illness that has a seasonal pattern. It’s characterised by mood disturbances that begin in winter and subside when the season ends. It’s usually diagnosed after the person has had the same symptoms during winter for a couple of years.”The behaviour associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder is quite different from the mood changes a lot of people feel because of the change of season and the disruptions to their summer lifestyle.
With SAD, the depression symptoms are more about ‘slowing down’. People sleep more, eat more and usually crave carbohydrates which leads to weight gain. They’ll have a lot less energy and won’t want to spend time with others. SAD has a cluster of symptoms that makes the person look like they are going into ‘hibernation’,” Dr Baigent says.
The cause of the SAD is believed to be a lack of exposure to light. The pineal gland, located in the middle of the brain responds to darkness by secreting melatonin which regulates daily biorhythms including the sleep/wake cycle. It’s believed that when this is out of balance, SAD can occur.”It’s important for people to get up in the morning and get some exposure to sunlight, ideally before 8am. Dawn and morning light is believed to be integral in regulating our biorhythms. Combining this with exercise is really important”, Dr Baigent says.
Homeopathic medicines may also be of assistance.
Rhus Toxicodendrum – this is a remedy that has a main characteristic of all symptoms being aggravated by cold temperatures and wet, foggy weather, and ameliorated by warmth. Mentally those benefiting from Rhus tox may also exhibit restlessness, and may feel particularly fearful, down or depressed at night.
Aurum Metallicum – this remedy is metallic gold, a substance traditionally associated with the sun – bright, shining, high in the sky, pure and warm. In wintertime, people who may benefit from this remedy may find themselves at the opposite end of this spectrum, feeling dark, sometimes deeply depressed, and as if they are unable to achieve the high expectations they have of themselves. This is a classic remedy for many of the symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder, and is often prescribed for bouts of depression associated with a lack of sunlight. It may also be helpful for stress, tension and sadness.
Nux Vomica – a remedy for people who are chilly in general and aggravated by drafts or cold air blowing. They don’t mind wet weather, but do need to get warm, which helps them feel better.
Calcarea Carbonica – another remedy for chilly people who feel worse in cold, wet weather and better from warmth. Although chilly, they tend to sweat (especially on their head at night) and both the perspiration as well as other discharges may smell sour.
Whilst these remedies may be available over the counter, they tend to work more effectively when a full case history is taken and the medicines are prescribed by a qualified Homeopath.
If you or someone you know feels they suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder call me to see how homeopathy and counselling can help.