Sunday 18 November 2018

Patricia Casey: 'It's that time of year when dark days mirror how we're feeling'

'SAD is characterised by severely depressed mood, inertia, sleepiness and over-eating.' (stock image/Getty)
'SAD is characterised by severely depressed mood, inertia, sleepiness and over-eating.' (stock image/Getty)

Patricia Casey

The clocks have gone back and the evenings are shorter. Most of us are bemoaning the gloom of the long nights, especially when contrasted with the beautiful, balmy summer evenings of 2018. And it is from now on that those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) will also experience their sadness - a type of depressive illness which evolutionary biologists say is analogous to the winter hibernation of some animals.

The comparison may be appropriate since SAD, if not treated, remits spontaneously when spring approaches, similar to the emergence of animals after their long sleep. The problem for humans engaged in hibernation is that we have to feed families, care for our loved ones, work and keep a home.

So the impact of several months inactivity in winter, when we are most needed to protect the very lives of those around us, is grave. There is also the risk of suicide during the depressed phase. It is for these reasons that SAD is treated rather than being left to resolve naturally.

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