Despite it meaning one extra hour of slumber, most of the nation will have unhappily and begrudgingly wound their clocks back over the weekend – plunging the nation into increasing levels of darkness.
Whilst this time of year may spark warm and fuzzy thoughts of cosy scarves, crackling fires and delicious comfort food for many – for others it triggers a far less pleasant series of thoughts and feelings.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly referred to as SAD, is a form of depression that occurs specifically during the winter months in an estimated 7% of the UK population, with a further 17% experiencing a ‘milder’ form of the condition*.
In a survey carried out by Counselling Directory, respondents were asked to identify whether they experienced particular SAD symptoms either always, most of the time, sometimes, rarely or never. According to the results, respondents felt the following ‘most of the time’ during winter**:
-Depression: Low mood, negative thoughts and feelings and a loss of self-esteem (41%)
-Extreme tiredness & lethargy (36%)
-Overeating: Craving unhealthy foods and eating more than usual (41%)
-Anxiety: Stress and tension (45%)
Come Autumn/Winter, individuals who do start to experience any of the above symptoms should not delay in seeking help. Whilst some of the accompanying side effects may seem mild, if left untreated they will simply worsen or at the very least will make an appearance again next year.
Unfortunately many individuals who do struggle in the winter do not open up to anyone about what symptoms they are experiencing – believing that they are only temporary or attributing them to a ‘bad week’ or ‘one of those days’.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms
What symptoms should individuals be on the look out for this Autumn/Winter?
In the midst of Autumn/Winter often one can fall into the trap of thinking they ‘ought’ to be happy and jolly. With festive cheer in the air and plenty of gatherings between friends and family – the second feelings of tiredness or negatively start to creep in there is a tendency to bat them off or bury them.
However this winter, Counselling Directory is encouraging individuals to look out for following:
-loss of libido.
Whilst SAD can only be officially diagnosed after three or more consecutive winters of symptoms (including the above), individuals who think they might be suffering should visit their GP as soon as possible to discuss available treatment and management options.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment
Whilst there are many forms of treatment for SAD, the following three options are thought to be among the most effective:
1. SAD Light Therapy: Light therapy is exposure for up to four hours per day (during Winter) to a very bright light at least ten times the intensity of a domestic light. According to research carried out by the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA), this form of therapy is effective in up to 85 per cent of diagnosed cases.
2. Go outside: SAD is caused by biochemical imbalances in the body that are triggered by a lack of sunlight – so as a first port of call individuals should be trying to maximise their exposure to natural light. Even if it is gloomy and wet, time spent outside could make a valuable contribution to minimising those imbalances.
3. Counselling/Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Counselling – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in particular – will help a sufferer to relax, accept their illness and cope with its limitations.
Depression is one of the most prominent side effects of SAD and is not something to be ignored. If an individual has spotted changes in their mood that correlate with the changing seasons and feel that they may be displaying SAD symptoms, help should be sought sooner rather than later to prevent a steady decline in psychological well-being.
Talk therapies have long since been championed as effective treatment methods for SAD, with counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in particular proving to be beneficial for reducing symptoms in many cases.
With an extensive directory of qualified counsellors and psychotherapists and a fact-sheet dedicated to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), visiting Counselling Directory could be the first step to leaving those winter blues out in the cold.