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Are You Suffering From Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

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Everyone feels a little melancholy when the days are short and cold. For some people, seasonal change brings with it something more serious than the blues: seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that can be debilitating.

And daylight savings time may not help, since darker mornings—in the fall or spring—are particularly difficult for those with SAD.

Mild forms of SAD are believed to affect as many as 20% of people in the United States. If you think you might be one of them, view this slideshow to learn more about the signs of this disorder.

SAD Or Just Plain Sadness?

SAD is a form of depression, and it shares most of the same symptoms. The two most common symptoms of depression are feelings of sadness and hopelessness, and losing interest in activities—such as socializing—that you normally find pleasurable.

If you experience these symptoms every day for at least two weeks, it’s a sign of depression. If you feel this way only during the fall and winter, and if these symptoms disappear during the rest of the year, it may be a sign of SAD.

Sleepiness And Constant Fatigue

  • People with SAD tend to feel the need to sleep more during the wintertime—sometimes a lot more.
  • In one study, published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research in 1994, patients at a SAD clinic averaged about 7.5 hours of sleep in the summer, 8.5 hours in the spring and fall, and nearly 10 hours in the winter.

Just because you’re sleeping more doesn’t mean you’ll feel rested, however. Other research has shown that people with SAD experience more insomnia and sleep disturbances, and are more prone to nodding off at work

Mood Swings

Anger and irritability are common—yet often overlooked—symptoms of depression and SAD. Research suggests that people with SAD are significantly more irritable than healthy individuals. They may also be more prone to anger than people with regular (nonseasonal) depression.

A 2006 study that compared groups of people with active SAD and regular depression found that more than 40% of the people in the SAD group experienced sudden fits of inappropriate anger, compared to just 29% in the other group. Those with SAD experienced 19 of these “anger attacks” a month, on average

Increased Appetite

Like depression in general, SAD can increase appetite in some people. Sixty-five percent of people with the disorder report being hungrier during the colder, darker months. Also read: Is Emotional Eating Making You Overweight And Unhappy?

The voracious appetite that sometimes accompanies SAD may be a biological response to a seasonal drop in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s associated with mood and helps to control hunger.

Though it can help you feel better temporarily, eating more—and being cooped up—during the winter can really pack on the pounds: Nearly 75% of people with SAD gain weight.

Where Is The Carb?

One of the reasons that people with SAD tend to gain weight is that the disorder can produce a strong craving for complex carbohydrates such as bread and pasta. (In fact, 7 out of 10 people with SAD experience this symptom.)

Gorging on carbohydrates causes the levels of an amino acid called tryptophan to rise in the brain. This in turn causes the release of serotonin, which boosts mood. In effect, people with SAD use carbohydrates as a kind of medication—and a bigger waistline is a common side effect. Also read: Feeling Anxious Lately? Add Chia Seeds To Your Diet

Trouble Concentrating

Depression can make you feel sad and alone, but it also compromises how well your brain works. The condition has been shown to affect a range of mental processes, including concentration, speaking ability, and memory. Also Read: This Is How Men Should Deal With Depression

A 2007 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that this so-called cognitive impairment can be every bit as bad in people with SAD as it is in people with non-seasonal depression. One woman who participated in the study—whose symptoms qualified for SAD, but not major depression—reported that she was having difficulty remembering names and appointments, and was easily distracted.

Sex? No, Thanks

Depression doesn’t exactly make you feel sexy. A loss of interest in sex is a common symptom among people with SAD and depression alike. But this only tends to be true among people who experience SAD in the fall and winter. If the disorder appears in the spring and summer—a much rarer condition sometimes called “summer depression” or “reverse SAD”—some of the symptoms tend to be the opposite of winter SAD. And one of the hallmarks of summer depression is an increased sex drive. Also Read: Why Mental Health Counselling is Important

Do you think you are dealing with SAD? Then here is a video which will teach you how to deal with the symptoms.

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Health & Fitness

Which Type of Butter Should You Choose?

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Which butter is better? Here are five varieties to consider.

  1. Organic butter offers more healing omega-3 fatty acids than other butters. And it’s less likely to have high levels of toxins, which can accumulate in an animal’s fatty tissues.
  2. Grassfed butter delivers more beta-carotene and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Beta-carotene is a potent antioxidant, and CLA can help improve body composition and reduce cardiovascular-disease risk. Some studies also show CLA may help protect against cancer.
  3. Cultured butter is slightly fermented or aged. “Fermenting butter increases the amount of butyrate,” says nutritionist Liz Lipski, PhD, which is a win for gut health. It also has a slightly tangy flavor that many people enjoy.
  4. Unsalted butter is largely a matter of taste preference compared with salted butter. Like butter, salt carries its own stigma when it comes to heart health — one that has been debunked in recent years. (For more on concerns about sodium, see “Is Salt Bad for You — Or Not?”.)
  5. Ghee is a clarified butter in which the milk has been heated and the solids skimmed off. It can be used in all the same ways as butter, and because the solids have been removed, it is often more digestible for people who don’t tolerate casein or lactose. It contains the same nutrients as butter, including butyrate. Ghee is stable at room temperature, making it a good option for meals on the go or while camping. (For a tasty recipe for infused ghee, visit “Infused Ghee”.)

This article originally appeared as “Butter Up” in “Everything’s Better With Butter” in the January/February 2021 issue of Experience Life.

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