Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Now that the clocks have gone back and the number of hours of sunlight decreases, 2 million people in the UK alone will begin to experience ‘winter blues’ – also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Woman sat on sofa reading and using a light therapy lamp
SAD is a type of depression which causes extreme low mood and energy at certain times of the year

SAD is a type of depression which causes extreme low mood and energy at certain times of the year. In someone with SAD, depressive symptoms are generally exacerbated in the winter months and ease during the summer months. Although it is common to notice changes in mood or energy levels as the seasons change, this becomes an issue when these changes are so severe that they interfere with daily functioning.

The underlying causes of SAD are complex, with a multitude of factors coming into play. At The Key Clinic we take a comprehensive approach to target biochemical imbalances and abnormal hearing profiles, both of which have been implicated in depression.

During his work as an ENT doctor, Dr Guy Berard began to notice a particular hearing pattern which was associated with severe depression. This hearing pattern became known as a ‘2/8 curve’ due to the unusual hearing peaks at 2000Hz and 8000Hz. Following this finding, two more curves (a 1/8 and 1.5/8 curve) have been associated with less severe depressive symptoms. By carrying out a 10-day course of Auditory Therapy, which we now utilise at The Key Clinic, Dr Berard was able to flatten these peaks and subsequently reduce the symptoms of depression.

The Walsh Institute’s work has pioneered our understanding of the underlying biochemical causes of depression. An imbalanced gut biome directly impacts emotional regulation through interference with neurotransmitter production and hormone secretion. We know that many factors, including nutrient imbalances, methylation patterns, alterations in endocrine activity, and sleep cycles, can all play a role in an individual’s vulnerability to depression. In SAD, levels of melatonin, serotonin, and vitamin D have been particularly implicated due to their interaction with exposure to sunlight.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed to those struggling with SAD in order to help increase and stabilise serotonin levels in the brain. However, SSRIs only reduce depressive symptoms in 38% of the population. This is because depression biotype can vary: ‘undermethylators’ lack serotonin, and therefore the increase in uptake caused by SSRI medication can be beneficial. In contrast, ‘overmethylators’ produce too much serotonin, making SSRIs ineffective and potentially dangerous.

Determining your biomedical blueprint and auditory profile allows us to identify the underlying causes of SAD in order to determine safe, effective, and drug-free treatment options.

Top tips for coping with SAD:

  1. Spend time outside – try to maximise your time spent in natural light to boost vitamin D levels. You can also try a Light Box, which simulates the sunlight that is missing during the winter months.

  2. Try some relaxation techniques – breathing techniques can be very beneficial in calming your central nervous system and grounding yourself when you are feeling stressed, anxious, or hopeless.

  3. Get your body moving – physical exercise is great for boosting dopamine levels. Dopamine is known as your ‘happy hormone’ as it can help uplift both your mood and energy.

  4. Eat a healthy diet – 60-80% of the chemicals in our brains are manufactured in our guts, so our diet can have a profound effect on emotional regulation and behaviour.

  5. Consider investing in a SAD lamp - using light therapy, especially first thing in the morning, can boost mood levels effectively.

To find out more about how The Key Clinic treats conditions such as depression, SAD and anxiety, contact us today.

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