What is SAD?

SAD is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern. Episodes of depression tend to occur at the same time of year during the winter months. Much like other forms of depression symptoms such as a low mood and lack on interest in life may be present with SAD, it is also common to be less active and sleep more.

SAD is also known as 'winter depression' due to the symptoms being more prominent in during this time of year. As the Autumn days begin to get shorter symptoms tend to start and are more severe during December, January and February months. Most cases therefore improve during the spring time and often disappear completely.

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What causes it?

SAD is believed to be linked to the lack of sunlight exposure during the shorter days of the year. Sunlight can effect the chemicals and hormones of the brain although it is not sure what affects these are. It is believed that light stimulates a section of the brain called the hypothalamus – controlling the mood, appetite and sleep.

People experiencing SAD lack the chemicals produced in the hypothalamus due to little exposure to the light which stops it working correctly. The lack of sunlight exposure is said to:
affect the production of serotonin and melatonin
affect the body's circadian rhythm (body clock)

Do you have SAD?

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed it is advised that you contact your GP and they may choose to carry out a mental health assessment.

Living with SAD is hard, as is living with any form of depression. It is likely you will feel stressed, unhappy and tired however it can be treated successfully.

Light therapy is a common treatment used for SAD, this involves sitting with a light box that produces an extremely bright light. Light boxes (SAD lamps) come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Before using a SAD lamp it is recommended that you speak to your GP and read the manufacturers instructions carefully.

Facts and figures

"Did you know that between 60% and 90% of people with SAD are women? It’s true. If you are a female between 15 and 55, you are more likely to develop SAD."
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