What is seasonal affective disorder, is SAD different to depression and what are the symptoms?

THERE ARE lots of people who aren’t looking forward to the end of summer and the start of colder, shorter days.

But for people with seasonal affective disorder the changing season can affect their whole life – but what exactly is the disorder and how is it treated?

Seasonal affective disorder is a condition where people feel depressed during a certain time of the year – usually winter

What is seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder.

People who suffer with the condition display normal mental health throw most of the year but become depressed during a specific season – most commonly winter.

Experts were initially sceptical about SAD but it is now recognised as a common disorder.

In the States it is thought that 1.4% of people in Florida struggle with the condition while 9.9% of the population are sufferers in Alaska.

The condition can include heightened levels of anxiety during the “down” period.

While the symptoms can be severe they often clear up in spring and summer.

It is often at its most severe in December, January and February

Is SAD the same depression?

SAD is a condition where depression is felt seasonally but the individual has normal mental health for the rest of the year.

People are typically most severely affected in December, January and February.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

The NHS lists the following symptoms for SAD:

  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • irritability
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
If you are concerned that you may be suffering from SAD consult a doctor

What is the treatment for SAD?

It’s not clear what causes the condition, although the main theory is that the depression is caused by a lack of sunlight.

If you think you are suffering with SAD and you are struggling to cope you should seek advice from your GP.

The GP is likely to recommend a number of treatment options including:

  • Getting as much sunlight as possible
  • Exercising regularly
  • Managing stress levels
  • Light therapy – with a special light box that simulates sunlight
  • Counselling and other talking therapies
  • Anti-depression medication

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