A number of people suffer from low feelings and depression when the nights begin to draw in over autumn and winter. This is known as seasonal affective disorder and, for sufferers, gets gradually worse as winter draws on, typically reaching a peak from December through to February. Once the spring begins and the evenings start to draw out, SAD gradually decreases and people return to relative peace and a better state of mind.
While many of us get the winter blues when it gets colder, many people with seasonal affective disorder can find their lives disrupted in a more insidious way. This can include feeling very low and being unable to function properly, losing interest in things around them, getting irritable and craving comfort foods. It’s not unusual for someone who suffers from SAD to put on weight over the winter because of overeating but it rarely leads to anything like an eating disorder.
How to Know if You Have SAD
The severity of the condition varies from one person to another but is characterised by a general feeling of depression. As a sufferer you have a low mood that seems to persist longer than usual. You might be irritable, have feelings of lack of self-worth and even feel stressed out and anxious a lot of the time. Some people can suffer from mini manic and depressive episodes. People with SAD can tend to have trouble concentrating as well as an increased appetite that means they eat more than usual.
Dealing with SAD
There are a number of ways to deal with seasonal affective disorder. The first option is to go down the self-help route and force yourself to do certain things. This can be easier said than done, depending on the seriousness of your condition but can make a big difference.
If you’re self-help regime doesn’t work, you might like to seek professional assistance. This can include something like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or CBT which makes you look at the trigger to your SAD in a different and more positive way. This can be highly effective, as can counselling and psychodynamic psychotherapy where you discuss your feelings about your condition.
In exceptional circumstances your doctor will prescribe medicines such as anti-depressants including serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. These are not always the best solution, however, and can cause certain side effects.
Finally, one solution that is peculiar to SAD is light therapy. This is where you use a special light box and expose yourself to a high intensity light at specific moments in the day, for instance, when you get up in the morning. It’s thought that they work by reducing the amount of melatonin you produce (the hormone that makes you go to sleep) and have been shown to be very effective for many SAD sufferers.
The great news is that there are plenty of options for those with seasonal affective disorder to take advantage of. You may still not like the onset of winter but the treatments and behaviour changes above should hopefully allow you to conquer your problem.