Feeling SAD? How to combat the disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression which is triggered by changing seasonal weather patterns. It usually occurs during the transition from summer to winter, when the days get shorter and darker. For this reason, it’s sometimes called “winter depression”.

SAD can present with similar symptoms to depression such as low mood or lack of interest and enjoyment in things you would normally enjoy. Other symptoms include irritability, low sex drive, and lack of energy. SAD can also make it difficult for a person to carry out simple day-to-day tasks, such as getting out of bed in the morning.

Dr Jon Van Niekerk, Group Clinical Director at Cygnet Health Care, has offered expert insight into how we can limit the impact of SAD. He said:

“We don’t fully understand what causes SAD, but there has been a lot of research exploring how daylight can influence our mood, appetite and wakefulness.

“The main theory is that a lack of sunlight during shorter autumn and winter days can affect a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. It’s the hypothalamus which controls the production of serotonin, the production of melatonin, and the body’s internal clock – which in turn influences our mood, appetite, and wakefulness. When these functions are thrown off-kilter, it can lead to symptoms of SAD.

“Some lifestyle changes that might help people with SAD feel better include getting as much natural sunlight as possible, like taking a walk during daylight hours, and exercising regularly. It can be helpful to keep in touch with friends and family to let them know how you’re feeling, and planning things to look forward to. Start small and try to establish a routine, no matter how simple it is.

“‘Habit stacking’ is a good way to foster positive habits in your lifestyle too. The idea is simple: if you’re trying to incorporate a new habit into your routine, then ‘combine’ it with another habit that you enjoy or find easy.

“There’s also light therapy: you can also use a special lamp (called a ‘light box’) to simulate exposure to sunlight. If it gets really bad, you can try talking therapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling can also be a great help if you’re struggling with your mental health in the winter months. If lifestyle changes are ineffective in treating SAD, your doctor might recommend talking therapies to help manage any associated impacts, including stress, anxiety and depression. In more severe cases, your doctor might recommend medication like antidepressants during the winter months.

“Ultimately, if you think you have SAD and feel as though it’s impacting your ability to cope with daily life, you should seek professional help as your GP will be able to advise you on the best course of action.”


About Lisa Baker, Editor, Wellbeing News 4360 Articles
Editor Lisa Baker is passionate about the benefits of a holistic approach to healing. Lisa is a qualified Vibrational Therapist and has qualifications in Auricular Therapy, Massage, Kinesiology, Crystal Healing, Seichem and is a Reiki Master.