Are you affected by SAD?

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It’s normal to feel a little bit blue when winter rolls around. Short days, long nights, cold weather and the flat feeling that follows a packed festive period all conspire to lower moods and make winter a miserable time of year. 

But for some people, the season signals a much more serious problem – they suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that is linked to a particular season.

Understanding seasonal affective disorder

This condition is characterised by a reoccurring depression that manifests around the same kind of time every year. It’s more common for SAD sufferers to experience symptoms during autumn and winter but some people struggle during the warmer months and fall into what is often called a ‘summer depression’.

While SAD is a widely recognised condition, there’s still no definitive explanation. Many scientists think that is has something to do with the kind of hormone changes that are triggered by a shift in season. Some also suggest that a lack of sunlight during the darker months can have an affect on serotonin levels in the brain, a chemical linked to mood regulation.

Another theory is that because sunlight stimulates a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls mood, appetite and sleep, a lack of it can cause disruption to these normal functions.

Signs and symptoms

SAD often first becomes noticeable between the ages of 18 and 30 but can start later. It is more common in women than in men and it is far more prevalent in countries that don’t get a lot of sun. There are a lot of different symptoms that can suggest SAD, many of which are also indicators of depression. Common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty sleeping or extreme fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feelings of depression, anxiety or apathy
  • Hypomania – extreme cheerfulness – during spring and summer
  • Overeating or lack of appetite
  • Loss of interest in sex or physical contact

If you experience these symptoms for two or three years, it is likely that you will be diagnosed as suffering from SAD.

Getting help with SAD

As with other types of depression, the treatments for SAD are often particular to a person and personality type. Common avenues include exposure to natural light when possible, special UV lamps to simulate sunlight, mild anti depressants and the popular natural remedy St John’s wort. Talking therapies such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behaviour therapy can also prove very beneficial and your GP should be able to help put you in contact with practitioners in your area.

For more information about SAD, its symptoms and what you can do to look after yourself, have a look at the information available from the NHS and the excellent resources offer by mental health charity, Mind.

Do you struggle with the lack of sunlight during the winter months? 


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25th Feb 2016
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I have suffered from SAD for decades usually from October to March. Some years I can almost feel a switch going off in Oct! I think it is like a kind of hibernation which we have to fight as humans. I usually ride it out and this winter`s mild weather has helped with coping. Luckily I can now feel the "dimmer switch" turning up again and in a few weeks will be back to normal. ( whatever that is!) 😉
18th Jan 2016
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I can't post on the page on Facebook - am I doing something wrong ? There is no comments box , just share . Thanks !!
5th Jan 2016
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Yes I think I am in a way. The weather is terrible and the days are very short. This time of year saps your energy and just want to get up late each day
31st Mar 2015
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If it wasn't for my pets I'd definitely spend a few weeks away in a hotter place over these winter months. Spring is here now though 🙂
4th Feb 2015
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Currently away in southern Spain for some bright sunshine! I find the winters very hard, more so as I get older. I am usually cheerful and energetic. The low light levels and short days in the UK really affect my mood and motivation.
I have hired a sun bed in the past, but obviously these have risks. I'd say go away if you can afford/are physically able to...
26th Jan 2015
Thanks for voting!
Huh I struggle with depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, ptsd adjustment disorder... I'm constantly up and down. I can be on "a high" for anywhere between days to weeks to months and then it just switches to a down phase for months out of nowhere... Wouldn't say mines SAD though... Symptoms are uncanny between my issues and SAD
3rd Jan 2015
Thanks for voting!
Have been affected for years. Just have to ride it out. Sunny days help but dreary dark days don't help.
2nd Jan 2015
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Seems to be getting worse as I get older too but like others I find that getting out in the fresh air and light does help a lot.
2nd Jan 2015
Thanks for voting!
I have always had the feeling of sadness, possibly mild depression, every winter. A couple of years ago I tried a light lamp - 20 minutes first thing in the morning - it works for me!
22nd Dec 2014
Thanks for voting!
I live in a flat in an old barn, which is very dark. I have found that it helps by replacing indoor light bulbs with white daylight bulbs. I have replaced the overhead lights in my lounge and have them on during the day, then put my "artificial" side and wall lights on for the evening/relaxation time. It has helped a lot.

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