Many of us have heard of seasonal affective disorder (very aptly abbreviated to SAD), but we don’t necessarily know a lot about it, or if it’s a real thing. Well, I can tell you now that SAD is very real for some people. In fact, SAD is a diagnosable mood disorder that’s related to changes in season. It occurs at around the same time every year, usually with the onset of the cold winter months, but occasionally, for some people, when the hot weather hits. SAD occurs most commonly in countries where there is less sunlight at certain times of year.
Do I have SAD?
SAD can affect any of us. If you’ve ever wondered if this could be you, ask yourself:
- Do I find it really hard to get out of bed on those cold winter mornings?
- Do I feel super tired, even after a decent night’s sleep?
- Do I find it hard to get going, even after being up for an hour or so and the tiredness has worn off?
- Does this affect my mood and make me feel flat and unmotivated, sometimes for the rest of the day?
Well, if this sounds like you, it could be more than just a case of the winter blues, so, read on….
What are the symptoms of SAD?
As SAD is a mood disorder, it directly affects how we feel, and symptoms may include:
- Feeling sad and depressed most of time
- Feeling hopeless and worthless
- Feeling guilty about things that really aren’t your fault
- Feeling tired and lethargic
- Feeling moody and cranky
- Finding it hard to focus or concentrate
- Withdrawing from your friends, family, and the people around you
- Losing enjoyment in things you normally like doing
- Problems sleeping
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Having thoughts about not wanting to be here or suicide
How do I know if I have Winter-specific SAD?
Ask yourself, when it’s cold, do you:
- Tend to oversleep or stay in bed for ages after your alarm goes off?
- Crave carbs and sugary foods?
- Put on weight over the winter months?
- Feel sluggish?
What makes it Summer-Specific SAD?
Ask yourself, when the heat’s turned up, do you:
- Have trouble falling or staying asleep?
- Feel agitated and anxious most of the time?
- Lose your appetite?
- Lose weight?
Why is this happening to me?
We don’t know exactly why some of us experience SAD, but it seems to be linked to a few things:
- Reduced levels of sunlight in winter, disrupting our body’s internal day/night clock, otherwise known as our CIRCADIAN RHYTHM. So, the less daylight, the less sunshine in our mood.
- A drop in our feel-good brain chemical SEROTONIN, triggering depression.
- A drop in our naturally occurring hormone
Am I more prone to SAD?
- SAD occurs more in women than men.
- SAD is more common in the Northern Hemisphere, where they have shorter days. So, if you live in England, you may be more prone to winter-specific SAD than if you live in Australia, but SAD can happen to anyone anywhere.
- SAD may be more common in people with other mental health issues, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or an anxiety disorder.
- SAD sometimes runs in families.
What can I do about SAD?
If you think you may have SAD, consider talking to a health professional. There are specific treatments for SAD which may include:
- Talk therapy
- Medication to help with your mood and anxiety
- Light therapy (phototherapy)
Why not take the first step to feeling better about life by giving us a call today? Our team of highly skilled and experienced Psychologists are here to listen and to help.