The clocks are due to go back soon, meaning the days get shorter and the nights get longer. For many of us, winter is always going to be slightly less enjoyable than summer – it is colder, wetter and darker. For some people however, winter brings with it a serious mental illness.
SAD stands for seasonal affective disorder, a condition that affects around two million people in the UK. A form of depression, SAD is triggered by a lack of light. This means that symptoms typically start in autumn, get worse during December, January and February, and then improve in spring.
The cause of SAD isn’t understood, although it is thought that the lack of daylight affects the production of the hormones melatonin and serotonin, and the body’s internal clock. The symptoms are similar to those seen in depression, the difference being that SAD occurs at certain times of the year. The symptoms vary from person to person, however typically include:
- low mood
- feelings of guilt
- lack of sex drive.
If you think you might be suffering from SAD, it is important that you visit your GP. Once a diagnosis has been made, you can explore your treatment options. SAD is commonly treated with therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy or hypnotherapy alongside medication and light therapy.
To help boost your mood while you undergo treatment, try the following:
- get out in natural daylight as much as you can
- exercise to boost serotonin production
- invest in a SAD alarm clock that uses light to wake you up.