SAD: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects roughly 3% of people across the United Kingdom, though this number could be far higher.

Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 12:14 pm

SAD, identified in 1984 by Norman E. Rosenthal, is a mental health condition that usually sees depression and other symptoms creeping in during the darker winter months (although not always). It’s sometimes called “winter depression” due to how its symptoms tend to be greatly exacerbated during this portion of the year.

Because of this, as we move further into the season of winter, people with the condition may begin to feel gradually worse from a mental standpoint. However, this isn’t the case for everyone – some may suffer more during the summer months, instead.

SAD is a serious condition that can have dangerous repercussions if left undiagnosed and ignored. If you suspect you may have SAD, here’s a quick guide to help you out.

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What are the symptoms of SAD?

In general, people struggling with SAD will undergo the same set of symptoms. The main and most commonly report symptom of SAD is a persistent low mood, even when there’s no reason for it. You may also feel excessively lethargic and tired during the day, when you should be at your most active.

In addition, you may also become more hungry than normal. Gaining weight by excessive consumption of food is another common symptom of SAD.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and suspect you may have SAD, contact your local GP immediately so they can carry out a medical assessment as soon as possible.

Going to your GP with a mental condition can be frightening and difficult, but it’s the best way to get help – they aren’t there to judge you.

What are the main causes of SAD?

It’s speculated that SAD can be caused by a lack of serotonin. Some people simply produce less serotonin than others – as sunlight is linked to serotonin production, a lack of it can have strong effects on certain people.

As well as this, alongside a deficiency of serotonin, people who suffer from SAD may also struggle with their bodies’ regulation of melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone that everyone has, helping your body to keep its sleeping patterns under control.

Adding to this, your body clock in general can be knocked out of whack by SAD. A main contributor to the sleepiness you may feel with SAD is the potential disruption to your sleeping pattern, meaning you’ll get fewer hours of comfortable rest as a result.

What can I do to combat SAD?

A good way to fight SAD is to get as much sunlight as possible, by going out during the day even during the height of winter. All year round, the sun’s UV levels tend to peak at around 3pm – so if you’re planning on heading out, this is the optimal time.

If this isn’t a realistic option, you can alternatively buy a light box to simulate sunlight. It may not have the exact same effect – but at least it’s something. They can be purchased from most major retailers.

Finally, as with any mental health condition, one of the best things you can do is to talk about it. Sometimes, a simple conversation with a friend or therapist can turn things around.