As the darker evenings draw in, so does the inescapable feeling of depression, exhaustion and anxiety, for those suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder. I watch my friend Alexis experience this every year – as the season changes and summer passes, her mood nosedives. She struggles to get out of bed in the morning, and both her concentration levels and confidence crash.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression correlating with seasonal change, thought to be linked with the reduced light that winter brings. According to Bupa, SAD hits 3% of the UK population and is four times more likely to affect women than men. A syndrome which strikes as soon as summer ends and sunlight diminishes, a low mood every autumn and winter specifically can be a sign.
Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms
Also described as the winter blues, according to Alexis, this really doesn’t cover the true debilitating extent of SAD. Symptoms include depression, fatigue, low self-esteem, withdrawing from social events and commitments, tearfulness, reduced libido and anxiety. In her experience, the fatigue is crushing; a tiredness which seriously restricts day-to-day activities.
Simple and free acts of self-care to try if you’re feeling anxious
Although primarily linked to low serotonin levels and a disrupted body clock, a physical illness or trauma can trigger SAD too. It could also be attributed to higher amounts of melatonin being produced in the night and later into the morning, resulting in a greater desire for sleep. With light being a natural stimulant, once this starts reducing, natural circadian rhythms are dramatically disrupted. Because of where we are positioned, those of us in the UK and Ireland undergo substantial changes in light due to being in the higher latitudes of the northern hempishere.
Alexis has learnt to manage her condition by being aware of certain restrictions and the importance of simple self-care. In addition, recognised treatment for SAD includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, antidepressants and light therapy.
Seasonal Affective Disorder treatments
Light therapy specialists, Lumie, have been developing products to help with the effects of SAD for 25 years. PR Manager Malgo Dzierugo explains, “the end of British Summer Time also marks the start of colder and gloomier days, which in turn means less motivation and productivity as well as seasonal mood changes.”
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