Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) seriously affects the behaviour and mood of 7% of the population each winter, triggered by the shorter days and lack of natural light. If you don’t normally suffer with depression, but feel yourself sinking into despair each year as winter approaches then start to pick up again in the spring, you may be suffering from SAD.
SADA is the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association, a registered charity providing information and support for those suffering from or caring for someone with SAD. The information below is a summary of their guidance.
How do you know whether you have SAD?
SAD is usually diagnosed if you present some or all of the following symptoms for three consecutive winters;
Depression, low mood, apathy
Increased need for sleep, and oversleeping. Waking in the night or too early in the morning
Fatigue, aching muscles, palpitations
Craving for carbohydrates and resulting weight gain
Reduced concentration levels and memory function
Irritability, increased stress levels, lack of interest in sex
All this is then followed by a dramatic improvement in mood in the spring sometimes accompanied by restlessness or sometimes by a gradual decrease in your SAD symptoms. Whilst SAD is at the very least frustrating if not debilitating, the good news is, that there are several things you can do to alleviate the symptoms and reduce the impact that SAD has on your lifestyle during the winter months.
Make the most of being outside. Simple activities such as walking, cycling and gardening can all help you fit in those precious hours in natural daylight.
Eat healthily-plenty of fruit and vegetables and restrict your carbohydrate intake to help avoid winter weight-gain.
You may also wish to consider light therapy using a light box, but make sure that it is certified as a medical device and it suits your requirements. Many employers now make provision for using a light box at work so contact your HR department if this would help.
More information and reviews on light boxes can be found here.
Whilst self-help measures can be sufficient to manage your SAD symptoms effectively, if you start to dread the darker, shorter days in the autumn and know that all you want to do for the next few months is hibernate, discuss your concerns with your GP who should be able to help.
In the meantime, roll on spring and summer…..here are a few reminders of what you can look forward to!