Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression caused by seasonal changes. The main thinking around the cause of Winter SAD is that lack of sunlight in the Winter months can stop the hypothalamus in the brain working properly, affecting the production of melatonin, (what is known as) the sleepy hormone.
It is thought that those with SAD produce more of this hormone than those without, causing the individual to feel unusually tired during Winter.
Mental health charity Mind explains Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as:
If you have SAD you may experience some symptoms of depression such as lack of energy, change in sleeping and eating patterns, less interest in seeing people and physical contact and/or feeling tearful, hopeless or anxious at a particular time of year. It is more common to suffer SAD in the Winter but some also notice symptoms in summer and the way it affects sufferers may vary from person to person.
SAD at work
If you are suffering from SAD it may be particularly difficult to get up and go to work in the morning and perhaps challenging to stay all day when you just feel like diving under the covers.
You might work from home and are now finding it difficult to feel motivated when your bed is right next to your office space. Of course this will affect how effective you are at work and if you are really struggling it might be time for a trip to the GP to get the help you need to get back on your feet.
Having a conversation about SAD at work can be daunting and uncomfortable, particularly if your company culture is not open about mental health. But if you need help and can’t work you may need to have that conversation so you can take the time you need to get the necessary help.
As Winter closes in, more people may be experiencing SAD symptoms, so what can we do to help ease this condition?
Self-care and treatments
Looking after our physical health during the Winter months is particularly important. As the days get shorter and darker it can be difficult to fit in physical exercise outdoors and less temping to get out in the cold but fresh air and exercise can help lift your mood. Making use of what little natural light there is by getting outdoors can also ease SAD.
If it’s not possible to get outside and utilise that natural light, some find light therapy helpful. Some SAD sufferers have reported that they feel their symptoms easing when regularly using a strong white or blue light-box although there is some debate about the science behind this.
As someone with depression might find talking therapies helpful so too might someone with SAD. Talking therapies involve talking to a trained counsellor, therapist or psychotherapist about your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and is a type of treatment many with mental health conditions find useful. You can access this either privately or through the NHS via your GP.
Some medications are available to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder and a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) may be prescribed to work alongside talking therapies.
You can discuss these treatment and self care options with your GP or therapist.
If you are experiencing SAD remember it’s not a defect, it is a treatable condition that many people battle, particularly in the Winter months.