announcement

Update: Check new design of our homepage!

Seasonal Affective Disorder Causes

Seasonal Affective Disorder Causes

Do you have a pattern of mood swings for a particular season? It could be seasonal affective disorder that may be the problem. Is this a psychological or a physical issue? Know its causes and some more detailed information in this article.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Being a part of nature has its own blessings, but sometimes, the human mind gets confined to a particular pattern of feeling, behavior and conscience, with the variations in nature's seasons. Most of us have pepped up energies on a bright sunny day, while dark and gloomy skies with pouring waters will leave us feeling low and blue. Until a certain extent this is normal, and natural, as the human nature and psych is designed to react to certain elements and seasons of nature in a particular manner. In rare cases, this feeling and reaction of the mind to the changes in the season will be more or in extreme. This kind of depression, that is influenced by the seasons, and which occurs or recurs with the changes in season, is termed medically as seasonal affective disorder, also abbreviated as 'SAD'. In this condition, a person will react differently, with the progress of fall and winter. Other names for this disorder are: winter blues, hibernation reaction and winter depression.

This may be somewhat of a psychological issue and the diagnosis cannot be done with tests. The symptoms will be depression, irritability, mood swings, sleep issues, poor concentration, low energy levels, weight gain or loss, body pain, crying spells, etc. In extreme and severe cases, the person may also develop suicidal tendencies. With all these complications, dealing with a seasonal affective disorder becomes a tough task. What can be the exact reason behind these issues? A little exposure on its causes has been made below.

Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder

The exact cause of this issue is still not known. The reason can be the nature of this issue being more of emotional or psychological. There are no tests that can be conducted. But based on observations, research and studies, there have been certain links that can help us understand the causes of seasonal affective disorder better.
  • A major cause according to experts is sunlight. The less exposure of sunlight in the fall and winter months make the difference to a person's mood and energy levels. There is a link of the brain being directly responsible. It can be explained in the following.
  • The human brain produces two hormones that are responsible for the mood and energy levels, sleep, etc. They are serotonin and melatonin. These hormones are known to be responsible for the sleep patterns and the energy levels in the body. It is believed that the hypothalamus is the point where these hormones are stimulated. Sunlight affects the release of these hormones, and without adequate sunlight the amount of serotonin, melatonin gets imbalanced. It also disturbs the internal clock of the body, which is called the 'circadian rhythm'.
  • Serotonin is the hormone that manages the mood factors, appetite and sleep patterns. It is also termed as a feel good hormone, that is responsible for the transmission of signals between the nerves and the brain. This neurotransmitter, when not produced in adequate quantities, due to less sunlight affects the mood of the individual, leading to depression.
  • Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal glands at night, this is what creates the drowsy feeling as the night progresses. This production is stopped gradually as the sun shines in the morning. This light when enters the eye, signals this gland to stop producing melatonin. But in winter due to longer nights and shorter days, the production of melatonin lessens, as the nights are longer, and sunlight on dull days is not enough to stop the production of this hormone. This eventually leads to the drowsy feeling and tiredness in dull and dark days.
  • The circadian rhythm is another factor that is responsible. During the low sunlight days and longer nights, the internal body clock may get imbalanced, as the body is not used to the sunlight pattern and intensity. Most of the time, people may leave for work before dawn, or return home when it already gets dark. This can lead to the disturbance in the normal circadian rhythm, adding to SAD's causes.
  • There are other substances as well that affect the brain and mood cycles in the body. Neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and catecholamines, contain adrenaline and dopamine which are affected during SAD. Another neurotransmitter and stress hormone called Corticotropin - releasing factor, is also observed to be interacting with serotonin in the cases of SAD, dealing with depression.
  • A genetic link can also be the cause for SAD, so depression can run in the family. People with hereditary depression issues, are more likely to get affected.
  • Some other causes like childhood abuse - physical, emotional or isolation, social factors and individual factors - like if you already suffer from anxiety or depression can trigger SAD.
Most of the people with this disorder, do not take apt treatment, and this can worsen the case. For all those who have trouble and issues coping with seasonal changes, make sure you get help. Medical help will be primary, however, keeping yourself happy by social and emotional balance will help a long way in coping with seasonal affective disorder.