Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD is a mental health issue which is very much underrated and overlooked. Officially recognised as a mental health disorder, it is a type of depression that people only experience during certain times of the year.
There are many people who haven’t even heard of it, let alone know much about it, and there are others who misunderstand it completely because they simply don’t have the knowledge. It’s like calling postnatal depression baby blues…there’s an element of it in there, but it’s much bigger than you realise.
SAD is very real
SAD is not just feeling a bit grumpier than usual when the seasons change. It’s not just the run down feeling you get when winter comes along and everyone is sharing germs. It’s not just an excuse to get out of work or prior commitments, or for letting yourself slip a bit. SAD is very real, and can affect your life in a massive way.
Sometimes referred to as “winter depression”
Because of the time of year it tends to happen, SAD is also sometimes called the winter depression.
Often begins in Autumn
People who suffer from SAD will usually notice the start of symptoms during Autumn, when the days get shorter. It is typically the most severe during the months of December, January, and February.
Often disappears during the Spring and Summer
During spring and summer, the symptoms tend to disappear. This can happen quickly for some, whilst others will find it takes months to start feeling normal again.
It’s possible to experience the opposite
It’s possible to experience SAD during Spring and Summer, and to feel better during Autumn and Winter. It is far less common though, and less understood.
Theories of SAD
There are a few theories as to what leads SAD to develop, but the prevalent one is lack of sunlight. This causes the hypothalamus to stop working efficiently, which in turn causes:
- Higher levels of melatonin, which makes you feel more sleepy
- Lower levels of seratonin, which can affect your mood, appetite, and ability to sleep
The body’s circadian rhythm is also affected by the change of seasons. The circadian rhythm is the physiological process of all living things, on a rough 24 hour cycle. When the seasons change, our bodies can find it hard to adapt to the change of daylight hours and the change in temperature. This can then have an adverse affect on our mental health.
Research shows us that in some cases SAD runs in the family. While there is no definitive proof that SAD is genetic, it is a current working theory.
Can worsen existing depression
Autumn and Winter can be a terrible time of year for people who have depression, because SAD can make the symptoms a whole lot worse. If you know anyone with depression, it would be nice to offer them extra support and kindness during these two seasons.
Symptoms of SAD
The symptoms of SAD are similar to the symptoms of any type of depression:
- Low esteem
- Persistent irritability
- Change in appetite
- Feeling lethargic
- Lack of interest in things you’d normally enjoy
- Low sex drive
- Increased stress and anxiety
- Reduced concentration
- Reduced interest in social activities
- Feelings of worthlessness and despair
Everyone experiences depression differently, but above are some of the more common symptoms of depression. They make everyday activities really hard, whether it be something as simple as getting out of bed, going to work, or doing housework. If these symptoms seem familiar to you, it might be worth speaking to your GP.
Treatment of SAD
There are four main types of treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another.
- Lifestyle changes – making the most of the sunlight, doing more exercise, keeping a healthy diet, and avoiding stress where possible.
- Talking Therapy – This usually comes in the form of counselling or CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
- Light Therapy – this requires the use of a light box, which simulates sunlight.
- Antidepressants – Doctors are often hesitant to prescribe antidepressants on their own, because they are unlikely to fix the problem by themselves. You will most likely be encouraged to take one of the above treatments alongside them. The type of antidepressants prescribed for SAD tend to be SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
If you think that you or someone you know is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, you can find out more information through the NHS and Mind websites. It is important to remember that depression is NOT a sign of weakness. Coping with depression in your everyday life is a sign of strength. Don’t be afraid to talk to others about it, and don’t be afraid to speak to your GP.
Don’t suffer in silence.
I am taking part in #Blogtober17, posted by Hex Mum. You can read more of my #Blogtober17 posts here, and have a read of other bloggers’ Day 23 posts here.