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Carol Vorderman worries she was suffering with S.A.D

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The star, who is appearing on the popular Channel 4 show alongside old-friend Gyles Brandreth tweeted to say that the pair of them “don’t hold back,” when commenting on the latest programmes aired on television, with many of her followers showing their excitement about her upcoming appearance on the show in the comments. At the beginning of the year, the 61-year-old took to her Instagram to wish her followers a happy new year, before going on to explain that due to a “lack of light” throughout the whole month of December, she suffered from what is known as seasonal affective disorder or S.A.D.

Appearing in good spirits as she returned from a holiday in Wales the former Countdown presenter shared: “Hope you’re well my lovelies. I feel like a new woman.

“I think I was suffering from that seasonal affect disorder you know SAD, because of lack of light because it never got light during December.

“Had a few days in my beloved West Wales, is matcha green tea safe in pregnancy ” she added. “And BOOOOOMMMMM she’s back in the room… Yeeeeeee haaaaaaaaa. Sending best #backintheroom.” [sic]

As always Vorderman’s loyal fanbase took to the comment section to show their love and support for the star. One user wrote: “SAD the days haven’t got much brighter yet, it’s the feeling of hope and freshness a new year brings!”

Whilst another added: “December was tough. But here’s to the lighter evenings.” And a third simply said: “Sending best back to you Carol.”

As the name suggests, SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. Although not always connected with levels of light, SAD can affect individuals in both summer and winter and has been described as “having your own portable black cloud”.

Mind, a UK-based mental health charity, notes that the exact causes of SAD aren’t clear, but a range of different factors are likely to contribute and these can vary a lot between different people.

Research suggests that the causes are similar to causes of depression, but there are also factors which can lead specifically to SAD. These include:

  • Effects of light
  • Disrupted body clock
  • Problems with melatonin and serotonin levels
  • Weather and temperatures.

Interestingly, when light hits the back of the eye messages go to the part of the brain that controls numerous bodily functions such as sleep, appetite, sex drive, temperature mood and activity. If there isn’t enough light, then these functions either slow down or stop.

Another way in which the lack of light during winter months affects the body is by disrupting the body clock. One theory is that if you experience SAD in the winter, the part of the brain that sets the body clock does not work in the same way.

This could mean the body clock is out of sync with daylight, leading to tiredness and depression. Some researchers think this is because your sleep pattern starts at a different time.

In darker light the brain also produces more of a hormone called melatonin, which helps your body get ready for sleep. Levels of another hormone, serotonin, which affects your mood, are also disturbed by how much sunlight an individual gets. Due to this it is thought that people who suffer from winter SAD seem to produce higher levels of melatonin and lower levels of serotonin during winter.

As with any type of depression, SAD can be difficult to live with. It can make you feel tired, stressed and unhappy.

Other symptoms that typically occur at various times of the year include:

  • Feeling irritable
  • Feelings of despair
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Indecisiveness
  • Tearfulness
  • Feeling stressed or anxious
  • A reduced sex drive.

Most people’s symptoms start in the autumn or winter and improve in the spring. These symptoms are usually fairly mild at the start of the autumn and progressively get worse as the amount of sunlight decreases. However, it is important to note that the nature and severity of the symptoms of SAD will vary from person to person.

The NHS explains that some people with SAD also experience recurring episodes of “unipolar depression,” while others may find they experience mild episodes of bipolar depression. The term unipolar depression is defined as individuals who only experience depressive symptoms. Whereas bipolar depression involves depressed periods (lows) followed by manic periods (highs) where you feel happy, energetic and much more sociable.

SAD is often difficult to diagnose because there are many other types of depression that have similar symptoms. Due to this, it may take several years before a medical professional realises that your symptoms are forming a regular pattern. Usually a diagnosis of SAD will depend on whether:

  • You have had symptoms during the same seasons for two or more years in a row
  • Your periods of depression are followed by periods without depression
  • There are any other obvious explanations or causes for your seasonal mood changes.

Fortunately, there are various treatment methods that can be used to aid individuals with SAD. This may involve using a combination of treatments to get the best results. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that SAD should be treated in the same way as other types of depression. These include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other talking therapies
  • Antidepressants.

Research has shown that light therapy is also a popular treatment for SAD in the short-term. However, there is no strong evidence to support the long-term benefits of using light therapy to treat SAD. Light therapy can be done by using special lamps known as light boxes.These lamps produce a very bright light.

Light intensity is measured in lux – the higher lux, the brighter the light. It is thought that the additional light encourages the brain to reduce the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy) and increase the production of serotonin (the hormone that affects your mood).

For confidential mental health support contact Samaritans on 116 123 to talk to Samaritans, or email: [email protected] for a reply within 24 hours. Alternatively, text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, or text “YM” if you’re under 19.

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