Lots of us experience up and downs throughout the year with feelings of sadness and depression. Sometimes we can brush these feelings under the carpet but what if they are related to a disorder. A disorder that can change with the seasons and different times of the year. This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can be hard to spot and recognise but when it is diagnosed there are things that you can do to help relieve it.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder, or also known as SAD, is a type of depression that you experience during certain seasons or times of the year. Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time and affects your everyday life.
If you have SAD, you will experience depression during particular seasons, or because of certain types of weather. It is common for all of us to be affected by changing seasons and weather, or to have times of the year when we feel more or less comfortable. An example might be that you might find that your mood or energy levels drop when it gets colder or warmer, and then you might notice changes in your sleeping or eating patterns.
But if these feelings are starting to interfere with your day to day life, it could be a sign that you have depression. If they keep coming back at the same time of year, you might have Seasonal Affective Disorder or ‘Seasonal Depression’ and a doctor would diagnose you with these.
Signs You Might Have Seasonal Affective Disorder
There are a variety of symptoms that can display themselves if you are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. These can be different for different people and can be different from season to season, which can make them hard to spot as SAD.
People suffering from SAD can experience these symptoms in phases and then they are separated by “manic” periods where they feel happy, energetic and much more sociable.
Possible signs of SAD include:
- Feeling sad, low, tearful, guilty or hopeless (how to validate yourself)
- Being more prone to physical health problems, such as colds, infections or other illnesses
- Finding it hard to concentrate
- Sleep problems, such as sleeping more or less than usual, difficulty waking up, or difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Changes in your appetite, for example feeling more hungry or wanting more snacks
- Losing interest in sex or physical contact
- Other symptoms of depression. (online therapy for depression)
- Suicidal feelings
- Lack of energy
- A persistent low mood
- A loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
- Feeling irritable
- Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling stressed or anxious
- Not wanting to see people
7 Ways To Relieve SAD
Below are some tips from NHS that can help you to relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder.
National Institute for Health Care and Excellence recommends that SAD be treated like other forms of depression and treated with talking treatments such as CBT Therapy or medicinal treatment such as anti-depressants. If you feel you might have SAD it is really important that you seek help to be diagnosed with the right treatment.
Try to get as much natural sunlight as you can. Try a brief walk at lunchtime or sit near windows when at home. Keep your work and living space as light and airy as possible. In this country, lots of natural sunlight can be hard, especially in the winter, but you can invest in lightboxes which help expose you to natural type light.
Although being depressed can leave you feeling low in energy and not wanting to be active, but exercise is known to boost your mood. Any type of exercise is good as long as it is something that is comfortable for you. Try to exercise outside as this will help with being exposed to sunlight as mentioned before.
Diet is something that can massively help us with our mood and can affect depression. Making sure you eat a healthy and balanced diet will help you to feel the best that you can. This will then have an effect on the way your body can cope with SAD.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils that can influence the area of the brain that is responsible for controlling moods. You could add a few drops of essential oils to your bath at night to help you relax. You should speak to a qualified person who knows about aromatherapy about what essentials are best for you and the symptoms you are suffering.
6 Have a schedule
As mentioned before, a symptom of SAD can be sleep problems as well as getting up in the morning. But maintaining a regular schedule will help to actually improve your sleep which can then in turn can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Even if you are suffering and are finding it hard to get up, try to continue with a schedule as you can.
7 Plan ahead
If you know when your SAD will return again, the time of year of the triggers, then plan ahead for that. Try to avoid stressful situations during that time, plan relaxing activities that might help improve your mood. You could create a self-care box full of things that you enjoy that is there ready for you when your symptoms arise again.
All clinicians at Oxford CBT practice Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or are Psychologists, providing evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077.
Clinicians Qualified in Treating Seasonal Effective Disorder
- Alex Bothwell
- Bonnie Williams
- Dr Harvey Tagger
- Alice Cochrane
- Julie Reynolds-Hook
- Lorraine Orders
- Bongi Dube