Do I Have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

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Just lately the skies have been grey, it’s been raining and sleeting, and unless our jobs demand it, we’ve been stuck indoors. Given these conditions it’s easy to see why some people may find themselves suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (known by its acronym SAD) in winter.

SAD is a type of depression, and is thought to be caused by a chemical change in the brain due to shorter days and less sunlight.

The symptoms usually start out mild and get worse as the season progresses. When the season changes, people normally become completely well again.

Symptoms of SAD in winter include:

  • lack of energy
  • sleeping too much
  • finding it hard to wake up in the morning
  • feeling very tired all the time
  • overeating and craving carbohydrates
  • gaining weight
  • losing interest in normal activities.

SAD usually starts during adulthood, and the risk of SAD increases with age. Women are affected more often than men.

It appears that SAD is rare in Australia, but many Australians report that they feel flat and lethargic in winter. If you have symptoms that don’t go away and are affecting your everyday life, it’s important to see a doctor.

SAD can be treated by:

  • Phototherapy. Being exposed to a bright light coming from a special light box for 30 minutes a day can help you to feel much better after a few days.
  • Other depression treatments can also work, including medicines, Vitamin D supplements, and counselling.
  • It’s a good idea to make your house as light as possible during autumn and winter, and to sit close to windows as often as you can.
  • Getting outside as much as possible and exercising regularly can also help to lift your mood and reduce any symptoms of SAD.

Article informed by Health Direct and Johns Hopkins Medicine.

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