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It’s that time of year again. The days are shortening, the mercury is falling and I feel the need to let the world know how I feel about seasonal affective disorder.

One of the things I have learned over the last few years, is not to blame MS for every umexplained symptom that I experience.

However, having multiple sclerosis does make you take stock of your life. Multiple Sclerosis certainly produces many weird and wonderful symptoms.

But, not every problem that life throws at you can be attributed to MS. SAD is probably a case in point. Why do I feel depressed just because summer is coming to an end? Why do I get low when the weather turns cold?

What causes seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

The exact cause is not clear. The amount of sunlight affects the number of nerve messages which you send from the eyes to certain parts of the brain. The activity of nerve messages caused by aunlight affects the level of certain brain chemicals (such as serotonin) and hormones (such as malatonin). These chemicals and hormones affect your mood. With less sunlight during the winter months, changes in the balance of these chemicals and hormones may trigger depression.

I suspect that what I suffer from is far more likely to be the “winter blues”.

According the National Institute of Mental Health, SAD or the winter blues is a recurrent form of major depression, characterized by feelings of hopelessness and despair, fatigue, problems sleeping and concentrating, and changes in appetite.

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The winter blues is a far less severe form of SAD. I think it is perfectly natural to feel gloomy when the seasons turns cold, dark and wet. I don’t view this as any sort of mental dysfunction. Yes, the balance of your brain chemicals change but, this is wholly explicable by the shnging exposure to the Sun.

However, the one thing that the changing seasons do trigger, is my desire to retire to Spain.

I am writing this blog post, in Scotland, as we near the end of October. The weather not been especially unkind this year. But, the forecast for the coming week suggests a marked turn for the worse.

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Dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder

If we can accept that SAD is a change in the brain brought about by a lack of sunlight then the treatment should be clear; get out in the sunshine.

But, this is not always possible:

  • Short, cloudy days limit available sun
  • Not everyone is able to walk outdoors (wheelchair-bound MSers)

So, we need an alternative way to get exposure to essential sunlight. Fortunately, there are a number of SAD lamps or light boxes that can be purchased.

Regular use of these SAD Lamps can alleviate the seasonal mood swings you can experience.

At the risk of repeating myself, I would find a week in the Spanish Sun far less arduous.

However, on a far less adventurous note. But, a far more pretinent note. Standing at the kitchen sink, washing the dishes,  with the window blinds open to the crisp daylight can help immensely.

Human hibernation

If you do suffer from SAD or winter blues then you may have thought about hibernation. It would be quite something to go to bed at the start of November and then wake at the start of April.

Now, I was of the opinion that humans cannot hibernate. Which, of course, they can’t. Not in the same way that bears or hedgehogs skip winter.

But, science is always pushing the bounds of possible. And, the space industry is researching human suspended animation.

They use a technique called therapeutic hypothermia, which lowers the temperature of a person by a few degrees. They can use ice packs or coolers, and doctors have even tried pumping a cooled saline solution through the circulatory system. With the lowered temperature, a human’s metabolism decreases and they fall unconscious into a torpor.


However, the suggestion of therapeutic hypothermia is quite scary. I am already very sensitive to extremes of cold, thanks to MS. And, suspended animation is not quite the idea of longevity I aspire to achieve.

Science is fantastic, but some things are best kept in the laboratory. And, this has now strayed too far from the topic of seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is considered to be a form of depression; a serious mental health problem. Coincidentally, an area of health concern that I am researching at the moment.

Related Links

What is Multiple Sclerosis; in layman’s terms
How to live well with Multiple Sclerosis
Improve Brain Function with language study

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Seasonal Affective Disorder Winter Blues