Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the days gradually get shorter, everyone feels a slight pang of sorrow over the end of the summer season.  But for some people, the winter carries a debilitating threat, and the refrain, ‘Now is the winter of our discontent’ strikes a very familiar chord.<--break->“></p>

<p>Seasonal Affective Disorder or ‘The Winter Blues’ is a form of depression that commonly manifests between late October and February. </p>

<p>The symptoms of SAD are indeed comparable to depression, which include: feeling ‘low’ or irritable, constantly feeling close to, or being in, tears, having low self-confidence, suffering from high anxiety, indecisiveness, fatigue and feelings of despair.  A common consequence of SAD is weight gain, as sufferers crave carbohydrates and generally eat more.  People with SAD also have weakened immune systems in the winter months.</p>

<p>If this sounds all too familiar then do not worry, you are not alone.  Seasonal Affective Disorder affects approximately 7 per cent of the population and a further 17 per cent of the UK population has the condition in a milder form. </p>

<p>But because of the stigma attached to depression, concerns associated with SAD are often uttered sotto voce.  Sara O’Keefe, Kingston resident, mother of two and sufferer of SAD understands the interconnectedness of Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression.  She said: “I think it can be therapeutic to talk about any kind of illness, as it may encourage society as a whole to stigmatise it less.”</p>

<p>Sara has had SAD for 10 years.  She discussed her initial awareness and experience of the condition, “About 7 years ago I realised that there was a pattern forming around my winter and summer behaviour.  In the autumn I would get the kids to school in the morning, and then be unable to do very much until 3pm when it was time to collect them. I would sit and read the newspaper for hours at a time, make endless cups of tea, and I wouldn’t be able to make the smallest of decisions about what to do next.”</p>

<p>Will the clocks not going back next year help the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder? “I now dread the clocks going back and even the start of autumn as I know what is in store.  The symptoms seem to have become more marked as I get older, particularly in recent years.  I’ve noticed a kind of ‘manic’ phase in late spring through to mid-summer.  I just wish I could feel that ‘up’ all year round. I have loads of energy then and feel I could do anything!  I’m happy and smiley right through to the core. In winter I become short-tempered and grumpy and I need to sleep a lot.”</p>

<p>But over the years there are things that Sara has found helped. “I find using a <a href=light box and taking serotonin effective. Also going out for walks at around midday. All of these have had a limited beneficial effect. Some years the light box seems to work, sometimes the serotonin does. Sometimes I’ll think the serotonin is really having a positive effect and then a week or two later I’ll be back in the doldrums. One year I went to Rome in late October for a week and it really delayed the onset for about a month.  I should really go away somewhere warm and sunny each October!”

If you have Seasonal Affective Disorder you can take small steps to help alleviate the symptoms. Taking Vitamin B complex supplements, eating food that is high in protein, such as eggs and lean meat, not drinking alcohol, and doing regular exercise outdoors could improve symptoms.

Click here for more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder:

The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association website

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