Seasonal affective disorder

What is Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

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Guest Blog is written by Janet Stevens

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and last through the winter, leaving you feeling low on energy and moody. These symptoms usually disappear in spring and summer. Less commonly, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer and subsides in the fall or winter.

Don’t think of moods as “winter blues” or seasonal fears you’ll have to deal with yourself. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady year-round.

Symptoms of (SAD)

In most cases, SAD symptoms appear in late fall or early winter and disappear during the sunny days of spring and summer. Less commonly, people with the opposite pattern will start experiencing symptoms in the spring or summer. In both cases, symptoms start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Feeling listless, sad or down most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy and feeling sluggish
  • Having problems with sleeping too much
  • Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having thoughts of not wanting to live

The Winter Blues

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression may include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy
Seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal affective disorder

Depression In The Spring & Summer

Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Increased irritability

Causes

The specific cause of this remains unknown. Some factors that may come into play include:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

How to Cope

If signs you’re experiencing align with that of seasonal depression, you can bring in one or two tweaks to your daily routine to help you deal with symptoms and continue to enjoy your life as normally as possible – but only if you feel well enough to do so. These five tips for coping with SAD

Get as much natural light as possible
Exercise outdoors and eat well
Be sociable 
Don’t sleep in too late 
Be honest with yourself 

Treatment can help prevent complications, especially if SAD is diagnosed and treated before symptoms become severe. Some people find it helpful to start treatment before symptoms usually appear in the fall or winter, and then continue when symptoms usually go away. Others require ongoing treatment to prevent symptoms from recurring.

David Peak offers Counselling Manchester. I am a BACP accredited counsellor and psychotherapist and have over 20 years experience of working with individuals and couples.   I work from rooms both in Central Manchester and in Rochdale.  I have helped individuals obtain relief from a wide range of issues including: anxiety, depression, bereavement, stress, trauma and abuse.  For couples I provide a safe space in which both partners are heard and respected, which enables them to work through their differences and reach a resolution.