This blog is part of the Mental Health Awareness Week series and examines symptoms associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This condition is often overlooked when discussing mental health conditions and many people are not even aware it exists.
SAD is a form of depression related to changing seasons. People with SAD typically notice that their symptoms begin and end at the same time every year. The pattern for SAD in winter usually begins in the autumn and winter months and then resolves in the spring and summer. However, some people are affected by SAD in summer and return to normal in autumn, winter.
Some symptoms are specific to summer onset SAD, while other symptoms are closely related to winter onset SAD. Generally though, the symptoms are very similar to depression and only come into effect in the problem season. Some of the signs of seasonal affective disorder include:
- Low energy and constant tiredness. This is not the same as usual tiredness or fatigue. It occurs even if you have not been exerting yourself and it completely zaps all your energy.
- Feeling sad every day. This type of sadness can completely overwhelm you and it is difficult to perform normal daily activities.
- Problems sleeping — even though you feel exhausted, you may find it difficult to fall asleep.
- Over-eating or craving certain food types. This is usually a desire for unhealthy foods which are high in fats and sugar.
- Lack of concentration and general feelings of hopelessness. It is difficult to perform at school or work and therefore productivity suffers.
The treatment for SAD would be similar to the treatment provided for depression. It is recommended that you see your GP so that a treatment plan can be put in place going forward. These treatments could include: Light Therapy, antidepressant medication, CBT or a combination of all three.
As with other mental health conditions, there are ways to cope and manage seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Whatever treatment you choose, make sure it is the right fit for you. SAD is not something to be ashamed of, nor should it be treated differently to other mental health conditions. A good diet and exercise can help to improve your mood, as will getting enough sleep and maybe investing in a SAD lamp or alarm clock which are designed especially for SAD sufferers.