The first time I heard of SAD, my honest first thought was “Yeah! Right! Any excuse”. Despite the fact that it is a recognised disorder, I did not want to accept it as real despite it being listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. I am now embarrassed to admit how wrong I was.
Well, ironically, years after first hearing of SAD and dismissing it, I now suffer from SAD.
SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. People who suffer from SAD face depression based on changes in season. To try to explain it better, without sufficient sunlight, a person with SAD has low energy, begins to feel moody and gets depressed.
Symptoms for SAD include:-
- Lethargy / feeling constantly tired / feeling sluggish
- Difficulty sleeping / Insomnia / Oversleeping / Other sleep issues
- Feeling depressed / SAD
- A sense of hopelessness
- A sense of worthlessness
- Loss of interest
- Lack of concentration
- Agitation & Anxiety
- Changes in your appetite and / or weight
- Suicidal thoughts
What exactly happens with SAD. Essentially, with reduced sunlight, this causes a drop in Seratonin levels. This affects mood and may trigger depression. There is also a drop in Melatonin. This affects sleep patterns as well as moods. When your sleep patterns are disrupted, it triggers off a whole range of effects. It has been proven that sleep depravation one of the worst forms of torture. So, when SAD messes with sleep, it really messes with a person.
While SAD sounds like a very trivial illness, it is a genuine illness. I know it may be hard to believe but despite how simple it is, it is very debiltating. On the plus side, SAD is very treatable.
You could move to a warmer country with longer sunshine hours and warmth. But let us be practical. This is unlikely to happen! The other treatments include psychotherapy, medication and light therapy. You do need proffessional help for psychotherapy and medication. However you can help yourself to light therapy. You can also take vitamin D which helps too.
There are many different types of light therapy. I found that some work better than others. I also try to physically get out of the house for at least 20 minutes per day. I find that this helps me. I also like having this compact light unit. This means that I can take it with me whereever I go. However for the house, I prefer a larger unit.
The thing I found that really works best are my Vitamin D tablets. You can probably get them on prescription but you can buy them in a pharmacy or online just as easily. Vitamin D comes in various doses. Anything under 1000IU would not be effective for people suffering from SAD but neither is there need to go for 5000IU or more. I think the Solgar pack at 2200IU just works right for me. However finding the right dose for you might need a little trial and error. You can just ask your pharmacist for advice.
Meanwhile, open up all your curtains and when you can head out even if the sun isn’t shining. It will help.