SAD – How to Deal With Seasonal Affective Disorder

Claire Mitchell

Hello and welcome to my website.

My name is Claire and I created this website with my partner.

Our initial aim was to provide price guides for home improvement projects so homeowners could get an idea of how much to pay and avoid businesses that overcharge.

We’ve since expanded the site to include help guides for causes we are passionate about.

My mother was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder several years ago and this page is based on my mum’s experience and was created with her help.

SAD is like a cold blanket that keeps depression and anxiety wrapped close to me. When I feel I can, I go outside and face the sun, close my eyes and focus on the light and warmth. – Quote from mind.org.uk

What is Sad?

Sad is a complicated mental health condition that affects millions of people.

Lack of sunlight during the winter months is thought to be the trigger that reduces Melatonin and Serotonin levels – two hormones that affect mood, appetite, sleep and libido.

While approximately 20% of people in the UK experience “winter blues”, around 3% experience Sad which negatively impacts their day-to-day life.

Typical winter symptoms of Sad start in Autumn and are:

  • General depression
  • Mood changes
  • Lack of libido
  • Boredom
  • Lethargy

In the springtime when each day brings significantly more sunshine, a sufferer’s mood will either improve to “normal” levels or it may swing in the opposite direction and they may experience:

  • Hyper activity
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Fast and erratic speech
  • Inability to concentrate
  • High sex drive

The swings from low to high are very similar to the symptoms experienced by Bipolar sufferers and Sad is also considered a sub-type of major depression.

Those Most at Risk

The following categories are most at risk of developing Sad:

  • The further you live from the earth’s equator, the more likely you are to experience its symptoms
  • Men have more severe symptoms but more women are diagnosed with the disorder
  • Your age affects your chances of suffering from Sad – younger people are far more likely to be diagnosed than older people
  • If you or a family member has been diagnosed with depression, bipolar or similar conditions you are more likely to experience Sad
  • Anyone taking medication that affects hormone levels may experience Sad; the contraceptive pill, some cancer treatments such as Tamoxifen and fertility medication such as Clomifene are possible triggers

Self Treatment

If left untreated Sad can lead to manic depression and in some people, even suicide. It also has an adverse affect on family members.

The condition can be managed effectively but a treatment plan should first be devised by a health professional who will take into account any medication you are on and any pre-existing medical conditions. Your lifestyle also needs to be fully assessed before implementing any treatment program.

The following steps have been known to help:

Change Colours

The colour scheme in your home can have a dramatic affect on your mood, dark colours such as black, brown, deep red and dark grey should be avoided. Lighter colours such as yellow, white and light blue are preferable.

Painting the walls is only one step, changing rugs, towels, curtains, carpets and furniture where possible are also steps you can take.

When Moving Home

When you move home, it’s essential that choose a property with a south facing aspect.

North facing home are in the shade for most of the year.

Also, avoid areas that are overshadowed by large trees or tall buildings that will block the natural light.

Change Windows and Doors

Large window

Large windows such as this one allow in more light and are preferable

Windows with thick frames, are lead lined or have patterns on the glass will let in less light. Consider changing windows to ones that allow the maximum amount of light in the room.

This type of window lets in much less natural light

Mirrors

Mirrors reflect both artificial and natural light and are a great way brighten up a room. The larger the mirror, the better.

Change Lightbulbs

Energy saving light bulbs recently replaced filament-based bulbs on shelves in the UK.

While these bulbs consume much less energy and help you to save money, they also fade gradually and after 2 years will produce up to 10% less light.

Consider changing the amount of artificial light in the home by upgrading the light bulbs.

Take Your Holidays in the Winter

If possible, switch from summer holidays to winter ones and make sure you go abroad to a country that typically has the warm bright weather for that time of the year.

Locations south of the equator are best but if you’re on a tight budget, places close to the equator still have longer days and more sunshine.

Eat Well and Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant and its effect on mood and mind is well documented. Excessive or regular consumption of alcohol, even just a daily glass of wine, should be avoided.

Healthy foods such as fresh fish and vegetables should take preference over the usual Sad cravings for carbohydrate heavy dishes such as pasta and potato.

Excercise

During the winter months, many Sad sufferers experience low energy levels.

Exercise is the best way to increase blood pressure and improve one’s mood. Excercise outdoors has proven to be more effective than indoors in a gym.

Join a Support Group

There are plenty of support groups that are available, both online and at a physical location.

A problem shared is a problem halved and you’ll find like minded people to share your experiences with and seek advice from in an informal setting.

Buy a Light Box

A light box is a specially designed collection of fluorescent tubes that significantly increases the levels of light in the room.

These products have been scientifically proven to help alleviate the symptoms of Sad. The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association claims that light therapy is effective in up to 85% of cases.

We recommend products with a minimum output of 5000 lux.

If you’re not convinced that this product will help and/or you are on a tight budget, you can hire one first.

Doctor Prescribed Treatments

Doctor prescribed treatments will be based on your medical history but often include anti-depressants such as SSRIs along with a talking therapy or a cognitive behavioural treatment program.

External Websites and Resources

The following websites contain relevant and helpful resources for those suffering from Sad:

Sada is a non-commercial support group and website for those diagnosed with Sad.

This BBC News report contains research from the University of Copenhagen into how new brain scans can reveal the cause of Sad.

Lifehacker’s report into Seasonal Affective Disorder contains some handy tips and advice and is a great read.

Mayo Clinic is one of my favourite websites for diagnosing medical conditions online. Check out their guide to Sad here.

Explore these 10 ways to beat the seasonal blues with this guide from Stylist.

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/about-sad/#.Wa1tyciGOM8

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