Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a specific kind of depression that occurs around autumn and winter when the nights draw in the weather changes. Symptoms can include lack of energy, a low feeling most of the time, even a sense of worthlessness in more extreme cases, as well as a craving for ‘bad’ foods that usually leads to weight gain over the winter months.
While for many people this is just a fleeting problem, for others it can be quite debilitating. It’s thought that the cause could be higher melatonin and lower serotonin levels in sufferers that combine to disrupt their normal sleep and waking cycle.
Treatments can vary from introducing a special box that can provides extra bright light exposure to implementing lifestyle changes or undertaking a course of cognitive behaviour therapy. In extreme circumstances, your doctor may well give antidepressants but this is normally after other avenues have been exhausted. SAD generally disappears as the days get longer and warmer in spring and summer and the body clock returns to normal.
SAD was first used to describe depression that is brought on by the onset of winter in 1984 and is attributed to a psychiatrist called Norman Rosenthal. SAD becomes a medical problem when it has a detrimental effect on the lives of those who suffer from it which can be typified by periods of extreme exhaustion and depression. Often, lack of the right diagnosis leaves seasonal affective disorder undiagnosed or mistaken for other health problems.