Why does bad weather cause depression?

We all talk about being “under the weather” when we’re not well but does the weather really affect our health? Well, in the case of those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, the weather really does play a major part in their health.

Winter depression

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is the name given to a form of depression that goes with the seasons. As the symptoms arrive manly when it’s cold it’s known as “winter depression”. The most severe symptoms of SAD appear in sufferers during December and run through till February. The symptoms tend to disappear during the spring and summer but make an appearance again as autumn approaches.

Symptoms of SAD

The symptoms include the following:

  • Low moods
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Loss of interest in everyday activities
  • Irritability
  • A feeling of despair
  • A feeling of guilt
  • A feeling of worthlessness
  • Lethargy
  • Longer sleep than normal
  • A craving for carbohydrates which leads to weight gain

When should you see your doctor?

You should consult your GP when you’re struggling to cope with everyday life. Your GP can then carry out an assessment of your mental health. You will also be asked to give an accurate appraisal of your lifestyle, sleeping patterns and your eating habits. Don’t forget to highlight the seasonal changes you experience in your moods and attitudes towards life and others.

What causes SAD?

The causes aren’t fully known but doctors believe that the reduced exposure to sunlight experienced during the autumn and winter is the root cause of this mental disorder. The increased production of melatonin, which is the hormone that makes us feel sleepy, can be part of the cause. A corresponding reduction in the body’s production of serotonin, the hormone which affects people’s moods and appetite, is another cause of SAD.

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