Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
For thousands of years, people have noticed that the seasons can affect our mood (147).
People sometimes become depressed in the summer, regularly become depressed in autumn and winter. SAD has a lot in common with other types of depression.
What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?
SAD is a type of depression with a particular pattern - it starts in the autumn or winter and stops in the spring and summer, regularly each year. For this reason it is sometimes called “recurrent winter depression” (147).
Many of the symptoms of SAD are the same as those of non-seasonal depression.
These symptoms include:
* low mood (often worse in the mornings),
* lack of energy, less “get up and go”,
* less interest in life, being unable to enjoy things, irritability, seeing other people less, less interest in sex (147).
But the symptoms of SAD are slightly different. In non-seasonal depression, people commonly sleep less and eat less. In SAD, they usually sleep more and eat more (147).
If you have SAD, you may find it very difficult to wake up on a winter's morning and can often feel sleepy during the day.
You may crave chocolate and high carbohydrate foods, such as white bread or sugary foods.
If you have SAD, you probably won't be doing as much physically, so it's easy to put on weight during the winter.
SAD-type depression recovers in the spring. Indeed, around a third of people with SAD become mildly high in mood during the spring and summer.
What causes SAD?
It seems to be a simple lack of daylight in winter. We now live much more of our lives indoors and so see less sunlight. It is thought that a lack of such light affects how serotonin works in the brain and that this can make us more likely to become depressed (147).
Other effects of SAD
Some symptoms of SAD can create extra problems which make you feel even worse - “vicious circles”.
If you feel tired all the time, you will probably do less - and lack of exercise can make depression worse.
If you are eating more, you may put on too much weight.
Sleepiness, lack of motivation and irritability can all cause problems at home, socially, and at work. You don't get round to doing things that need to be done, and this can add stress to your life (147).
Some of the self-help measures mentioned below can help to prevent these “vicious circles” from becoming too big a problem.
There is some evidence that Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) may be helpful to treat winter depression and to prevent it coming back in future winters (147).
Counselling and Psychotherapy may be provided via Skype and FaceTime in the comfort of your home, office or any place of your choice.