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How to spot Seasonal Affective Disorder

As we approach the end of the year the nights become longer and the weather grows colder.

This year we are expected to have an unsettled, cooler autumn and a colder, drier winter.

Not only would this worsen the cost of living crisis, it would also have a huge impact on people’s mental health.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that appears in a seasonal pattern.

For some, symptoms can be more apparent during winter, becoming severe in the transition from summer into colder months.

Although energy levels naturally vary from season to season, if you become aware of your feelings interfering with daily life around this time of year, it could be a warning sign for SAD.

According to the NHS website, symptoms of SAD include:

  • a persistent low mood

  • a loss of interest in everyday activities

  • irritability

  • lacking energy

  • difficulty concentrating

In the UK, around 3 people in every 100 will suffer from significant winter depression, so if you’re concerned, you are not alone!

What can you do to help ease the symptoms and improve your mental health?

The cause of SAD is not completely understood, but it has been noted that the reduced amount of light in the darker months can play an important role in our mood.

Because of this, advice for treating SAD is often related to absorbing more light wherever possible.

This can include walks or exercise during daylight hours to catch those natural rays while they’re still around, or can be related to light therapy.

Light therapy uses a “light box”, which mimics natural sunlight and can encourage the brain to make less melatonin, waking you up and encouraging productivity wherever possible.

Depending on the severity of the case of SAD, treatments like light therapy can be helpful, but clinical options like antidepressants or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may also be recommended.

If you feel that you may be suffering from SAD, contact your GP and request an assessment.

The cold months are hard, and if you are struggling to cope, it’s important to remember that there are resources around you to help wherever possible.

Recommended resources:

  • Samaritans- 116 123

  • Mindline Cumbria- 0300 561 0000

  • Togetherall- a free online support resource for those age 16 and over who are living in Cumbria

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