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If you’re experiencing sadness, anxiety, irritability, low energy, oversleeping, social withdrawal, and cravings for carbs and simple sugars around this time of year then you’re not alone. You could be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition that affects 5 percent of the United States population, according to Mental Health America.
This may not seem like a serious condition, but it definitely is. SAD patients can experience the same depths of despairs as those suffering from other forms of clinical depression.
While the exact reasons for SAD aren’t clear, it’s believed that a vitamin D deficiency and lack of sunlight keeps a part of the brain—the hypothalamus—from working properly, which leads to a disruption of circadian rhythms. When our circadian rhythms are out of whack, it can affect our levels of melatonin and serotonin, and all of these factors can lead to the negative changes in mood and sleep experienced by SAD sufferers. In North America, the prevalence of SAD increases with latitude (those living in cooler climates with less sunshine are more impacted), so you’re more likely to experience SAD if you live in New Hampshire versus, say, Florida.
The good news is that SAD symptoms typically improve each year with the coming of sunnier spring weather, but the even better news is that you no longer have to spend several months of every year feeling lousy and down in the dumps. There are some all-natural treatments for SAD that are just as effective—if not more so—than pharmaceuticals, and they don’t trigger the weight gain, digestive distress, sleep problems and other side effects that drugs often do.
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