What is Seasonal Affective Disorder and Why Does It Matter?
Is the gloomy weather affecting your mindset? You might have heard whispers of the dreaded ‘Winter Blues’ but that doesn’t make experiencing them any easier. From low moods to a serious lack of energy, the colder months of the year can be a struggle. What’s more, these subtle changes could be symptomatic of a common mental health issue.
Around 29% of Brits experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), according to a survey from YouGov and The Weather Channel. Plus, women are 50% more likely to experience the condition than their male counterparts. So, what is SAD and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know about this important issue and when to seek help.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Let’s start with the base-line facts. SAD is a common condition that tends to affect people during the wintertime or when there is less natural light outside. However, in some cases, people experience it in the summer too. Often called the ‘Winter Blues’ or ‘Winter Depression’, the condition actually shares many of its symptoms with depression.
The cause of SAD is currently unknown. While experts theorise that the lack of natural light in the winter could be one cause, more research into this area is needed. The Royal College of Psychiatrists note that the instances of SAD don’t increase in the north of the country (where there is less light), which could mean that other factors are at play here.
What are the SAD symptoms?
While feeling blue is a part of SAD, there are other symptoms of which you should be aware. According to the NHS, the following changes could be signs of the condition.
- Low moods
- Loss of pleasure or interest in activities
- Despair, guilt and worthlessness
- Lack of energy
- Sleeping for longer than usual
- Craving carbs and weight gain
- Low sex drive
- Anxiety and stress
- Feeling less sociable than usual
The information also states that people who experience SAD may find it hard to concentrate and be less active than usual. These side effects could make it hard for you to carry out your day-to-day tasks, such as going to work and heading to the shops for food.
What SAD treatments are available?
If you’re worried that SAD is impacting your life, it’s time to take action. There are plenty of options available to help you manage and treat this condition. Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which you can help improve your mood and tackle the symptoms.
When you’re experiencing SAD, the first step you may want to take is to increase your self-care. That could mean exercising more, eating well, doing things that you enjoy and sharing your feelings with those around you. You should also try to get more natural light during the day-time. For example, you could take a walk in the morning each day.
Light therapy is another smart option. Research published by the American Psychological Association suggests that this approach could help to alleviate the side effects of SAD. You can buy light therapy boxes online and use this treatment in the comfort of your own home. Be sure to read the reviews of the boxes before choosing the right one for you.
Speaking to a trained counsellor about your stresses, worries and how you feel could help you to manage SAD. You can get referred through your doctor or look for a private practice in your area. While counselling is not for everyone, it could be one approach in easing the symptoms of the condition. Speak to your GP for more advice.
Similar to counselling, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is another type of treatment that your doctor may recommend. This is a type of talking therapy in which a therapist will help you to see that the way you think and behave can impact your mood. The aim is to find techniques to help you to manage your emotions. You can work with a trained therapist, attend seminars on the approaches or work on a program online.
When should you speak to your doctor?
If you think that you might be affected by SAD and you’re finding it hard to manage, you should speak to your GP. Be clear about the symptoms you’re experiencing and your daily moods. They will be able to diagnose your condition and advise you on the next steps.
Now that you’ve got all the information on SAD, the next step is up to you. If you’re experiencing the signs of this condition, speaking to a professional is the best approach. Luckily, there are many ways to manage this common problem. Put simply, getting the support and help that you need is a smart move when it comes to your health.