Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD as it’s also known) is a form of depression that occurs in the winter months, from late autumn to early spring. It’s a depression which is caused by the changes in the amount of sunlight, and was first recognised as being a disorder in 1984, when Dr Norman Rosenthal published his findings on the benefits of using light therapy for those suffering with the symptoms of SAD. It was then established as being a genuine condition in 1987, by the American Psychiatric Association.
I think the seasons have different effects on everyone. Some love the colder months the most (like me), and some love the warmer months. Well, SAD generally refers to those that struggle with the winter, colder months, but it can be any season which triggers depressive symptoms.
How To Tell If You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?
In order to be diagnosed with SAD, you must experience at least two weeks of symptoms that include low mood and energy levels, difficulties with work or social activities, and increased sleep. Some people may also experience weight gain and changes to their appetite during this time period.
How To Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder
Let’s take a look at what you can do yourself to help you cope with SAD:
It’s important to eat more fruit and vegetables throughout the winter months, to provide your body with the needed nutrients to help fight off the winter blues, and ailments.
It might seem difficult when the weather changes, and it gets colder, but getting outside during the ‘bad’ months you struggle with is important. Sunlight helps your body to produce serotonin, which can help with mood swings, as well as giving you much needed vitamin D.
Exercise is recommended to cope with SAD symptoms, as exercising releases endorphins, giving you a natural high, which can help alleviate some of the symptoms you might be struggling with.
According to studies, vitamin D has been proven to help with seasonal depression as it promotes serotonin production, reduces inflammation and other symptoms.
Whilst it’s often spoken about, it’s thought that SAD only affects 4% to 6% of the population. Everyone gets the winter blues, but SAD is a lot more than just feeling a bit low about the dark nights, and shorter days. It’s not something you can self-diagnose on the internet, so it’s important to see your GP to get officially diagnosed, and to discuss a treatment plan to help you cope with the SAD symptoms.