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What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Shortened to SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a specific type of depression that has a seasonal pattern. Known as the winter blues or winter depression, it is most common during the colder months. However, some people who suffer with SAD experience it during the summer and actually feel better in the winter. It’s believed that two million people in the UK struggle with the disorder.
While it’s very common for our mood to be affected by the weather, if you suffer from SAD, you’ll experience bouts of depression during specific seasons. Just like any other type of depression, it’s important to speak to a medical professional if you think you have SAD and there is a variety of treatment which can help you to get your life back on track.
Symptoms You Have SAD
The main symptom of SAD is that you experience feelings of depression during a certain season. However, signs and symptoms can vary from person to person and season to season. Some of the most common signs of SAD include:
- Feeling lost
- A loss of interest and pleasure in everyday activities
- Sleeping for longer periods of time and feeling lethargic
- Difficulty concentrating
- A persistent low mood
- Feeling guilt, at despair and worthless
Contrary to popular belief, SAD isn’t just a case of feeling low during the winter. There are many factors that contribute to it and symptoms can become severe for some people – so much so that it impacts their job, relationships, and health to name a few. If you’re struggling to cope or are worried about a loved one, there is plenty of support out there.
Causes of SAD
Unfortunately, the exact cause of SAD isn’t fully understood but many experts have linked it to a reduction in sunlight exposure during the winter months. It’s believed that a lack of sunlight can actually impact a part of the brain called the hypothalamus which affects the body’s natural production of melatonin and serotonin as well as the body’s internal clock.
Melatonin is a hormone that’s responsible for making you feel sleepy. Those suffering with SAD may produce more of this which results in feelings of lethargy. Serotonin is the hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep – and is sometimes called a happy hormone. A reduction in sunlight could lead to lower levels of serotonin which is linked to feelings of depression.
The body’s internal clock, also called the circadian rhythm, uses sunlight to control and time certain bodily functions such as when you wake up. Lower light levels in the winter may impact this natural rhythm and result in symptoms of SAD.
Some medical professionals believe that there may also be a genetic link as some cases of SAD appear to run in families. That’s not to say that just because someone has SAD that their family member will experience it though.
Seeking Help for Seasonal Affective Disorder
If you’re feeling low, it’s always good to talk to someone – whether it’s a friend, family member, employer or a medical professional. At Addiction Advocates, our phone line is open too – whether you have questions about SAD or want to know if you’re suffering with it. There is treatment out there and we can help to recommend the best programme for you.
It’ll start with a mental health assessment. This is nothing to be worried about and will help us to uncover more about your mood, lifestyle, sleeping patterns and eating habits as well as any seasonal changes. Armed with this information, we can let you know about suitable treatments. The most common include:
- Lifestyle measures – such as getting out in the sunlight as much as possible, managing your anxiety and stress levels, and finding the time to complete regular exercise.
- Light therapy – which involves using a specialist lamp to simulate sunlight exposure.
- Talking therapies – including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and counselling sessions with trained experts and medical professionals.
- Antidepressant medication
- Rehab treatment, either inpatient or outpatient
While some of these treatments may seem a little daunting, they are effective ways at alleviating SAD symptoms and can help you to create strategies to prevent them from recurring again. What’s more, if you are feeling unable to cope or your SAD symptoms are impacting other areas of your life, the above treatments can help you to start living the life that you’ve wanted – now and in the future.
Get in Touch
When it comes to feeling low, it’s important that you don’t simply brush symptoms off. This is because, in some instances, when these symptoms are left they can actually get worse. What’s more, there is lots of treatment out there – whatever your preference. Plus, at Addiction Advocates, we’re determined to help everyone to get onto the right path to recovery – whatever that looks like to them.
Our 24/7 and free helpline is available for individuals as well as friends, families and employers and we also offer referral and intervention schemes. No matter how long SAD has been affecting your way of life, why not get in touch today and start planning for a future without it?
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This is done to assess what sort of help is needed so we can recommend an addiction treatment service that can provide the best help possible.
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