Could CBD help seasonal affective disorder?

woman seasonal affective disorder

As the ‘C’ word is getting used in every other sentence, jumpers are out of the wardrobe, and we’re waking up in the pitch black every morning – autumn has definitely made itself at home in the UK. And while it’s the most wonderful time of the year for a lot of us, some unfortunately don’t quite feel the same. As the seasons change, those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is sometimes known as ‘winter depression’, are starting to feel the effects. 

SAD is a form of depression, but with symptoms reoccuring around the same time every year when the seasons change, commonly in the winter. According to the NHS, symptoms of SAD can be:

  • A persistent, low mood.
  • A loss of pleasure or interest in normal, everyday activities.
  • Irritability.
  • Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness.
  • Feeling lethargic and sleepy during the day.
  • Sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning.
  • Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight.

Like depression, SAD symptoms and its severity affects people differently. And while there’s no exact understanding why SAD occurs, professionals believe it’s because we’re getting less sunlight, which can stop the ‘hypothalamus’ in our brains working properly. This can cause effects like higher melatonin, which is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy, internal body clock disruption, as your body tends to use sunlight to wake you up, and lower serotonin because of the lack of sunlight, which can affect your mood. A study found that people suffering from SAD ‘show significant seasonal differences in the way they regulate the neurotransmitter serotonin in comparison to the majority of the population’, with lower amounts of serotonin in their bodies during the winter.

While there’s no concrete evidence that CBD oil could help those suffering from SAD, we do know that CBD oil interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), acting on the receptors in the brain to produce serotonin. When the body doesn’t produce enough endocannabinoids or can’t regulate them properly, it falls out of balance. In this instance, there’s lower amounts of serotonin, which can lead to body systems malfunctioning, causing problems like depression. But, CBD works as a modulator to help the body regain homeostasis, so when the right amount of CBD is added to the body, balance begins to return and the body starts to heal itself.  

Overall, our advice would be to go to your doctor to ask for the best solution. Everyone is different, and they could suggest ways you can help with your SAD disorder to alleviate symptoms. Treatments for SAD range depending on the severity. It can be something simple like getting more natural sunlight, exercising more, avoiding stress, or something like a lightbox to give you exposure to sunlight, which is known as ‘light therapy’. More severe cases can involve talking therapies or antidepressant medication.

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