When the weather turns cooler and the nights draw in, many of us find ourselves feeling a little less ‘upbeat’ than usual – but for some, it goes a lot further than this. For those suffering from Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) the winter signals the onset of severe depression.
What is SAD?
SAD is a disorder that affects people at certain times of the year. In the UK, symptoms usually begin in September to November and continue until spring. During these times, sufferers experience symptoms of depression.
Who gets SAD?
In the UK about one in 50 people are thought to be suffering from SAD, with four times more women than men being affected. The condition often runs in families and tends to affect people living in cooler climates. It is more likely to start suffering from SAD in your 20’s, however it can start at any age. Once you have it, you are at a high risk of getting it every year.
What are the symptoms?
Many of us experience symptoms of depression at some point in our lives. To be diagnosed by a doctor though, the symptoms have to be there on most days for several weeks, interfering with your day to day life.
- Issues with sleeping (in SAD, oversleeping is common).
- Changes in your eating habits (in SAD, you are likely to eat more than usual).
- Feeling sad and down most of the time.
- Not wanting to do anything, even things you usually enjoy.
- Feeling guilty or worthless.
- Feeling tearful.
- Inability to concentrate.
- Feeling tired all the time.
- Feeling as though life is not worth living.
- Palpitations, anxiety and feelings of heaviness in the limbs.
How can I get help?
The most important thing to do is to pluck up the courage to speak to your doctor. They will take it seriously and can recommend various treatments. Up to three quarters of people with the disorder can be helped with anti-depressants. This type of medication can take up to four weeks to work, so be sure to stick with the treatment.
Light boxes have also proven to be helpful, emitting a light that is ten times stronger than a normal light bulb. Doctors have found that many SAD sufferers feel better within a few days after spending three hours a day in front of these light boxes.
If you think you may be suffering from SAD or any other type of depression, you may find speaking to a counsellor helpful. Please see our Depression page for more information.
View and comment on the original Patient article.