What is seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression, which is more apparent during certain seasons. It is often referred to as “winter depression”, as it is often experienced severely during the winter months. However, some people find they suffer more during the summer than the winter, although this is less common. The weather can also be a contributing factor to SAD, with certain weather conditions making the experience worse.
Many people notice changes in their mood due to the changing seasons, such as feeling your energy levels drop or changes to your sleeping or eating patterns, which is quite common. However, if these changes begin to affect your day-to-day life and become a problem for you, it is advisable to seek support from a trusted family member or friend or advice and support from a GP. They may diagnose seasonal affective disorder if your low mood or depression is worse during the same period each year.
How might SAD be experienced?
There are a number of ways SAD might be experienced, but you may not have them all. They can include:
- Changes in sleeping patterns, such as sleeping for longer and finding it hard to wake up
- Changes in eating patterns/appetite
- Feeling low for long periods of time
- Having a lack of energy (lethargy)
- Experiencing a lack of interest or enthusiasm in hobbies and pleasures
- Finding it hard to concentrate
- Experiencing memory problems
- A loss of interest in sex or other physical contact
- Feelings of isolation and not wanting to see other people
- Feeling low in mood, sad and/or tearful
- Experiencing feelings of guilt
It’s not uncommon to have any of these experiences from time-to-time with the usual stresses of day-to-day life, however if you feel that you are experiencing a number of these for a long period of time, you may wish to speak to a GP.
Can SAD be treated?
SAD can be treated, with mild to moderate cases being treated without medication; more severe cases may need medication. A GP will advise which is best for you.
Other treatments that may be prescribed include:
- Talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – you can find out more about this on our website using the link at the bottom of the page.
- Light therapy / light boxes – these are recommended for use up to an hour a day, whilst continuing with your usual tasks such as reading, working, watching TV, etc. The light emitted is meant to replicate the natural sunlight missed during the winter months.
- Exercise – physical health supports mental wellbeing. You can read more about the importance of physical health, as well as suggestions for exercises, on this website using the link at the bottom of the page.
Some things that you could try yourself to improve your wellbeing are to make small, healthy changes to your diet, as well as getting as much natural sunlight as possible.
Real Life Experience
If you’d like to share your experience of seasonal affective disorder, please email [email protected]