Part 2: Shining a Light on SAD – The Diabetes Connection

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends at about the same time every year for most people: late fall or early winter. To say it simply, SAD saps energy and intensifies moods. Alternatively, SAD can cause depression in the spring or early summer – but this is much less frequent.

Although it is not known how many people with diabetes experience SAD or ‘the winter blues,’ clinical depression is significantly more common among people with diabetes than in the general population. This could be partially because diabetic retinopathy (a disease that affects blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye) can interfere with the transmission of the light signal to the brain, which may cause a year-round ‘blues.’

An article in Diabetes Management has other good insight about how SAD relates to insulin:

Since people with diabetes may experience symptoms similar to those of depression when their blood glucose levels are out of target range or are fluctuating greatly, this is a good area to examine first. Pay attention to whether your low moods, cravings, or feelings of irritability are accompanied by out-of-range blood glucose levels, whether they resolve when blood glucose levels return to normal, and whether they last minutes or hours versus weeks or months.

Winter blues expert and psychiatrist Dr. Norman Rosenthal observes that SAD sufferers tend to produce a surplus of insulin during the winter months; this excessive insulin production “appears to subside” with bright light therapy [more to come on this in Part 4 of this blog series] and with the advent of summer.

Exercise benefits people with diabetes by improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Physical activity can also help send the winter blues away. Numerous studies confirm what many of us have felt - vigorous exercise clears the head, helps generate energy, and boosts feelings of well-being.

Follow the Healthy Living blog for the next week to learn more about SAD, its symptoms, treatments, and lifestyle changes that can benefit those suffering with these winter blues.



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