What is SAD
Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a form of depression that strikes sufferers from Autumn onwards and may last well into the following Spring and summer. Patients who suffer from SAD, or winter blues as it is also known, can go on to develop full-blown major depression, so it is a disorder that deserves to be taken seriously. (Some very rare subjects may become hypomanic or even manic in the bright summer season but I will not be addressing those here.)
SAD is caused by the reduction in light in the Autumn and Winter months, and has nothing to do with the other meteorological conditions in winter, although cold, wet, and miserable weather may contribute to the worsening of symptoms by keeping sufferers indoors.
If the following symptoms occur for you in Autumn and Winter, your doctor may diagnose you with SAD
- A feeling of low mood or sadness for a period greater than two weeks, which interferes with daily life and cannot be put down to a life event.
- Increased appetite especially for carbohydrate rich foods. People who normally eat healthily may describe 'cravings' for sugary foods, baked goods, and anything that provides a quick release of energy.
- Weight gain – both because of increased appetite and decreased activity.
- Depending more heavily than usual on non medical stimulant and relaxants such as coffee and alcohol.
- Loss of interest in activities and events that were normally considered enjoyable, and anticipated with pleasure.
- Social isolation. Patients give up on social interaction and tend to stay home. They avoid situations in which they will have to talk to other people. Even a phone call may seem like hard work. Social anxiety may develop.
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Fatigue and loss of energy. The patient feels the need to sleep longer than they usually do, and then feels un-refreshed and tired during the day.
- Memory and cognitive problems. The sufferer may find their memory deteriorating and their ability to think impaired. Patients may describe everything taking longer because they are easily confused. Simple calculations seem more complex, and simple decision-making seems more difficult and may even be avoided.
If you have many of these symptoms and they are severe, it is best to talk to your doctor, as SAD depression can occasionally develop into the more serious major depression if not treated. Your doctor may prescribe a course of anti-depressants or talk therapy with a trained counsellor. But there are many things you can do yourself to minimise the impact of SAD on your life. Try getting outdoors more often for example, especially between the hours of 11 am til 2pm whn it is brightest.