Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD, is a form of depression that is exacerbated through changes in the seasons. Most commonly SAD is noted to exist from Autumn through to Spring when the days are shorter.

SAD is often characterised through hormonal changes. For example:

    • a recurring low mood
    • losing interest and even pleasure in activities which were previously enjoyable
    • Feeling irritated, guilty, worthless, despair
    • Having a lack of energy
    • Feeling increasingly sleepy or sleeping longer than normal
    • Difficulty getting up in the morning
    • Putting on weight and unusual cravings for carbs.

Ultimately these symptoms can have a severe impact upon an individual’s daily life and it is therefore necessary to speak to your GP.

Treatments for SAD can fall under 4 different categories:

    • Lifestyle
    • Light Therapy
    • Talking Therapies
    • Medication

All treatments are discussed between the individual and their GP to identify the most appropriate.

Lifestyle measures can be as simple as increasing exercise, identifying and managing stressors. Pleasure and Mastery can be used to identify the stressors as tasks are then self-identified as being enjoyable or not. Then a good balance between the two can be created to restore the balance and reduce the depressive feelings.

Light Therapy concerns the use of light boxes to simulate daylight to help assist with the short days found in the winter months.

Talking Therapies such as Counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which should identify why SAD feelings are present.

Finally, medication may also be offered as a treatment. This may take the shape of antidepressants such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. Sometimes medical interventions can be seen as scary or as a slippery slope but the doctors will listen to your concerns and prepare a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

However no one quite knows what causes SAD although the main idea surrounds levels of daylight, especially as it appears prevalent during the winter months. It is thought that daylight affects the area of the brain that coordinates sleep and emotional activity, bodily functions and growth and development.

If you are concerned about Seasonal Affective Disorder, please speak to your doctor.