by Kate McLaughlin
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
It is not uncommon for people to begin to feel a little low as the nights begin to draw in earlier and the weather becomes cold and drizzly in the Autumn and Winter months, in fact, it could be something called Seasonal Affective Disorder. But what is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that comes in waves in certain seasons. It is also known as “winter depression” as people commonly experience SAD during the winter months, when it becomes a colder and darker. This doesn’t mean that people only experience SAD in the autumn/winter months, as they can experience symptoms during any season.
What are the signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression. Depression is a low-mood that is persistent and affects your everyday life. However, people only experience these low moods during a certain season, rather than all year round – this is what makes it Seasonal Affective Disorder.
As SAD is a type of depression, many of the symptoms are the same.
- Having a persistent low mood.
- Experiencing negative feelings such as sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness most of the time.
- Not enjoying the activities you used to.
- Being more irritable that usual.
- Having low self-esteem
Find out what other symptoms someone might show if they are experiencing SAD on the NHS website here.
What causes SAD?
Just like with depression and other mental health disorders, understanding the cause is not straight forward and often, there are many different reasons. However, it is thought that SAD is linked to the lack of sunlight we are exposed to in the autumn/winter months.
The amount of sunlight we get during the day can affect things like:
- the production of melatonin – melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. For those experiencing SAD, the body may produce it in higher than normal levels of melatonin, making them more sleepy .
- the production of serotonin – serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep. Not being exposed to sunlight can lead to lower serotonin levels. Low serotonin levels are linked to feelings of depression.
- the body’s internal clock – Your body uses sunlight to time important functions throughout the day, for example, the time you wake up. Lower light levels during the winter may disrupt your body clock and lead to symptoms of SAD.
It is important to remember that SAD can be caused by other factors too, such as genetics.
Is there a treatment for SAD?
There are things such as light therapy and CBT, that many use to treat their SAD. If you feel like you may need treatment, it is best going to see your GP. They will recommend the most suitable treatment option for you, based on the nature and severity of your symptoms.
Here are some tips for dealing with SAD yourself: