Winter is not a glamorous season.
It can be cold and rainy and sometimes icy.
The sky is grey.
Trees without their leaves look pathetic.
Except for the holidays
there’s really not much to get excited about.
Most people feel a little ugh.
Some people feel worse.
You might say, they feel S.A.D.
Seasonal affective disorder, which has the oh-so-clever acronym SAD,
is a diagnosable mental illness.
You can find it in the bible of mental health, the DSM-5.
Or you could, until they changed the name to the much less catchy
“depressive disorder with seasonal pattern.”
How do you even pronounce that?
Same disorder though
so I’m sticking to the old name,
out of respect for good acronyms.
SAD is a version of depression,
and many of the symptoms are the same:
feeling sad, having low energy, changes in appetite and other symptoms.
难过 无精打采 食欲有变化 还有其他症状
What makes seasonal affective disorder different from depression is, well, it’s seasonal.
SAD only affects people during certain seasons and it can recur year to year.
Most people with SAD begin to feel its effects in the late fall and winter,
but some people have it during the spring and summer instead.
About 5 percent of Americans experience SAD each year.
It ranges from 1.4 percent in Florida to 9.9 percent in Alaska.
Latitude makes a big difference.
SAD’s causes are complex and not well understood.
It’s related to the changing patterns of light that comes with seasons.
As we write this in Reactions’ headquarters in Washington, DC,
it’s 5:30 PM in early December
and it’s as dark as night outside.
That can affect the body’s circadian rhythm.
And that can mess with your mood.
Your circadian rhythm is controlled by a region
deep in your brain, called the SCN for short.
The SCN takes cues from your eyes
about whether it’s dark or light out
and sends that information on to the pineal gland.
The pineal gland makes the hormone melatonin only when it’s dark out,
and melatonin helps humans go to sleep.
Quick fun fact
Melatonin has the opposite effect in animals
depending on if they sleep during the day or at night.
Nocturnal animals’ brains secrete melatonin at night
just like ours,
but instead of making them sleepy,
it gets them amped up to go
knock over trash cans and other nighttime stuff.
So when winter comes around and the days get shorter,
your brain can get mixed up and your circadian rhythm
and your mood can get out of whack.
Another hormone at play in SAD is serotonin.
Most of your serotonin is weirdly in your intestines,
where it helps move digesting food along.
But some is in your brain too, where it keeps you feeling good.
Lots of mental disorders are linked to problems with serotonin levels.
Serotonin levels are naturally lower in the winter when there’s less light.
So by now it’s probably clear that light plays a big role here.
That’s why one of the most common treatments for SAD
is to sit under a bright light.
Seriously, doctors recommend getting a bright, white light
and sitting a couple feet away from it for half an hour in the morning.
You don’t even have to look at it.
Just hang out next to it. Share stories with it. Have breakfast with it.
只要在附近逛一逛 看看故事 吃顿早餐
It will make you feel better.
Medicines are another option.
SSRIs are a class of drugs that may keep more serotonin in your synapses.
In randomized controlled trials, SSRIs do better than placebos in treating SAD.
Psychotherapy is a third treatment that can be effective.
BUT doctors say none of these are a sure bet,
and sometimes these treatments work better in combination than alone.
What works varies from patient to patient,
and some need a combination of one or more treatments.
Definitely talk to a doctor
if you think you’ve got more that the occasional winter blues.
Sometimes all that chemistry happening inside us needs to be readjusted
– even if all it takes is a little more light.
Tell us how you stay cheery in the winter,
and check out these other videos to help keep your spirits up.
Thanks for watching.
Winter is not a glamorous season.