Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. It’s often known as “winter depression” because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe during the winter. Symptoms often begin in the autumn with later sunrises and shorter days.
The symptoms of SAD include:
- persistent low mood
- loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities
- feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
- sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
- craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
Treatments for the symptoms of SAD include:
- Lifestyle measures, including getting as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising regularly and managing stress levels
- Light therapy – a special lamp called a light box is used to simulate exposure to sunlight
- Talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling
- In more extreme cases, antidepressant medication may be necessary
6 Top Tips for preventing and coping with SAD
- Increase exposure to natural light. In some places that may not possible, especially when the long nights and short days of the deep winter months set in. Consider switching some of the lights in your home or office with bulbs that simulate natural light.
- Staying organized can actually help relieve some of the “down in the dumps” feelings that come from being depressed.
- Stay active. Don’t underestimate the benefits of exercise to help improve your mood and overall well-being. Exercise outside during daylight hours if you can. Even a short daily walk can help to make a difference.
- Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who won’t let you shut yourself in the house all winter long. If you find it difficult to keep up contact with your friends and family members, arranging regular catch-ups in advance might help you to overcome this.
- Eat well. There’s a tendency to eat comforting food when feeling low. It’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet to make sure your brain gets enough of what it needs to function properly. You should also try to eat little and often, and drink enough water to stay hydrated.
- Seek professional help if it gets out of control. Your GP will be able to look at your personal situation and suggest treatment options that are right for you. If you have private health insurance you may able to see a GP more quickly.