Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition that affects around 7% of the population. Common symptoms include low mood, lack of energy, feelings of hopelessness and tearfulness, disruption of sleep, changes in appetite, and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities. While the exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, it is believed to be partly genetic and linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of autumn and winter.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help cope with SAD. Self-help measures are highly effective for most individuals. Getting regular exercise, managing stress, and maintaining healthy sleep routines can all contribute to improved well-being. Maximizing sunlight exposure is also important, whether by taking daytime walks, sitting near windows, or using light therapy. Light therapy involves using a specialized lamp called a light box to simulate exposure to sunlight. Although its effectiveness is not yet clear, many individuals with SAD find it helpful. Dawn simulating alarm clocks are another option that could be explored.
If symptoms are severe, it is important to seek professional help. A mental health assessment conducted by a doctor will help determine the best course of treatment, which may involve talking therapy and/or antidepressant medication. It is crucial to reach out to friends, family, and medical professionals for support if SAD symptoms become overwhelming. Online resources and helplines, such as Samaritans and Samaritans Ireland, are always available for confidential conversations.
Remember, you don’t have to struggle alone. Seeking help and implementing self-care strategies can make a significant difference in managing and overcoming SAD.
Sources: Health Service Executive (HSE), Dr Ali Zawwar from Lloyds Online Doctor Ireland, Dr Paul Van Der Westhuizen, specialist digital clinician at Medichecks, Samaritans, Samaritans Ireland