The Real Life Effects of SAD 

How minor changes can help minimise the effects of seasonal affective disorder.

Within the UK at present we are in the middle of winter. Winter means shorter days and longer nights. Many people with SAD will be suffering at present.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) has become widely known about in the last five years. For many suffering with SAD, it has stopped the endless days of suffering in silence.

SAD is a type of depression that comes from a change in seasonal patterns. Known as the ‘Winter Blues’ the symptoms can be debilitating and far-reaching. Symptoms for SAD become more prominent in particularly severe winters.

It’s like having your own portable black cloud — Anon

Causes of SAD

The exact cause of SAD is not understood. One of the causes is thought to be a reduced exposure to sunlight. One of the popular theories is that a lack of sunlight will stop the stimulation of the hypothalamus.

When the hypothalamus doesn’t work this can affect the following:

Production of Melatonin is Increased. — Melatonin is a chemical in the brain that makes you tired. People who suffer from SAD are found to produce higher than normal levels.

Production of Serotonin is Reduced. — Serotonin is a hormone that affects mood, appetite and sleep. This is also the chemical which has been linked to depression.

Body’s Internal Clock (Circadian Rhythm) is Disrupted. — Your body uses light to regulate important functions such as waking up. Low levels of light in the winter can affect this rhythm and cause SAD.

Symptoms of SAD

The following are all symptoms of SAD.

  • Persistent low mood
  • Loss of pleasure and interest in everyday activities
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • Feeling lethargic and sleepy during the day
  • Sleeping longer than normal
  • Finding it harder to get up
  • A craving for carbohydrates which can increase weight

These symptoms can be mild to severe. For some people, the symptoms can become so severe that daily living is not possible.

Treatments for SAD

There are however many easy techniques that can be used to combat the symptoms of SAD.

Lifestyle Changes — Try to get as much sunlight as possible. Walk outside, without sunglasses or sit near a large bright window. Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. When it starts to get dark put the lights on before you need to. This keeps the house light and can reduce symptoms. Try to manage your stress levels, stress can have an impact on SAD.

Light Therapy — Lightboxesand salt lampsare relatively cheap and easy to use. Both are used to simulate exposure to sunlight and can reduce symptoms.

Talking Therapies — Try counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Both can help you to develop coping strategies for when you are feeling down or stressed.

Talk to Your Doctor — On some occasions, your symptoms may be so extreme that you need to consult your G.P for medication.

5 Tips to Help

  1. Don’t suffer in silence
  2. Consult a G.P if needed
  3. Don’t overreact or worry about it.
  4. Be healthy, eat healthy, live healthy
  5. Take your symptoms seriously.

Do you suffer from SAD and what coping strategies do you use?

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