Getting Prepared for Winter – Part 8: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder – also known as SAD - is a type of depression that often strikes in winter.

Seasonal affective disorder – also known as SAD - is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern and is also known as "winter depression" because the symptoms are usually more severe during the winter. If you experience symptoms of depression or anxiety, such as persistent sadness or loss of interest in activities, whatever the time of year, seek help from a mental health professional for support and treatment options.

Symptoms of SAD can include:

  • a persistent low mood

  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities

  • irritability

  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness

  • feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day

  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning

  • craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

  • difficulty concentrating

At Bluebird Care Calderdale, SAD is something we do encounter with some of our clients. 

When To See Your GP
For some people, these symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities. You should consider seeing the GP if you think you might have SAD and you're struggling to cope. They can carry out an assessment to check your mental health and may ask you about your mood, lifestyle, eating habits and sleeping patterns, plus any seasonal changes in your thoughts and behaviour.

What Causes SAD?
The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it's often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days. The main theory is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the:

  • production of melatonin – melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher than normal levels
  • production of serotonin – serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep; a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression
  • body's internal clock (circadian rhythm) – your body uses sunlight to time various important functions, such as when you wake up, so lower light levels during the winter may disrupt your body clock and lead to symptoms of SAD

It's also possible that some people are more vulnerable to SAD as a result of their genes, as some cases appear to run in families.

Treatments For SAD
A range of treatments are available for SAD. The GP will recommend the most suitable treatment programme for you. The main treatments are:

More Information From The NHS About SAD

Read more about how seasonal affective disorder is treated

How to find the right care for you or your relative

1. Find your local office

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2. Get in touch with us

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3. Assessment

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4. Care team chosen & care starts

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