Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D. as it is widely known, is a recognised form of depression that has a seasonal pattern with episodes of depression occurring at the same time each year, normally during the winter months.

As with other types of depression, the main symptoms of S.A.D. are a low mood and a lack of interest in life, together with being less active than normal and/or sleeping more than usual. These symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter and are usually most severe during December, January and February.

In most cases, the symptoms of S.A.D. begin to improve in the spring before disappearing altogether until the following autumn/winter. The exact cause of S.A.D. is not fully understood; but it’s thought to be linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of the year.

Sunlight can affect some of the brain’s chemicals and hormones. One theory is that light stimulates that part of the brain that controls mood, appetite and sleep and which in turn can affect how you feel.

In people with S.A.D., a lack of light is thought to affect the production of the hormones, melatonin and serotonin and the body’s internal clock, which regulate several biological processes during a 24-hour period.

If you believe you have the symptoms of S.A.D., your doctor will carry out an assessment to check your physical and mental health.  You may be asked about your mood, lifestyle, eating and sleeping patterns and any seasonal changes in your thoughts and behaviour. As with any type of depression, S.A.D. can be very difficult. It can make you feel tired, stressed and unhappy with yourself and circumstances. However, it can usually be successfully treated.

Light therapy is often used to treat S.A.D.  This involves sitting in front of, or beneath a light box. Light boxes produce a very bright light and help by replicating the sunlight that is missing throughout the winter months to help stimulate hormone production.

In severe cases, counselling or anti-depressants may be recommended; the latter in my view being very much a last resort.

16 Dec, 2013

6 thoughts on “S.A.D.

  1. I am fortunate that I don’t suffer from SAD, although I do know a number of people who do to varying degrees.

    For a while it was odd to see their mood change from bubbly outgoing personalities to being very fed up and depressed. It is only comparatively recently that a direct link has been recognised between this and seasonal changes. I know from friends that a diagnosis has been especially helpful.

    It can be a very distressing and difficult condition and I have heard light boxes can help, although I think this varies a lot from person to person.

    1. It’s good that you don’t struggle with S.A.D. I also know one or two people who have it as well.

      Lisa has raised a good point. Being pro-active in our life helps. I also believe being prepared for the winter months is beneficial too.

      Boosting the immune system by actively taking Vitamin C and echinacea for a short while in the winter months and also paying attention to our diets, should help. Anything that we can do that actively helps us change the way we feel. I believe the light box therapy does work, but to see its benefits we must use it for between 2 to 3 weeks, extending the time we spend on it daily. It’s not an overnight fix.

      Even if we can’t get rid of the condition completely there are always things we can do to help ourselves.

  2. I have this but it’s not as bad as it used to be. I keep myself busy to tackle it and get outside more, often on sunny days. I feel wonderful in the summer time and crappy in the winter.

    It’s funny how something like lack of light can affect us. I agree with you on the anti-depressants. I’ve been on them for years and if I could go back and change it I wouldn’t have even started them.

    Coming off of them is a horrible process. I tried once and I felt numb with no feelings at all. I think doctors should tell their patients that coming off them is worse than not being on them at all.

    The light therapy box works great for this condition. I’ve read up on it. I would get one, but it isn’t in my financial abilities right now. Great information on this subject.

    1. Thanks Lisa! I agree with you. I have only ever been on antidepressants once in my life and once was too much; I came off them relatively quickly. I think the light therapy box works very well and is a very good investment if you can buy one.

      I agree they are a lot of money, but there are desk lights available with the same technology which are cheaper. Keeping busy helps is good, but doesn’t get rid of the initial problem.

  3. SAD is definitely something I have to deal with and living in Maine doesn’t help any! My friend has a light box on right now which is supposed to help but haven’t really tried it myself.

    I’ve had to deal with it most of my life so I used to just try my best to ignore it! Right at this point in my life I’ve grown very tired of it so I am trying to do things differently to get out of the funk I end up in.

    The only other option is to move out West for more sun but not really possible right now. So hard when you like where you live but not so much the weather conditions!

    1. Thanks Randy. I think you’re right. We sometimes have to do things differently to get out of the ‘funk.’

      It doesn’t help when we have things that we’re dealing with also, but definitely being pro-active helps including light box therapy. I believe the technology works, but can be expensive.

      There are less expensive products on the market now with the same technology.

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