Seasonal affective disorder symptoms: Do YOU have this common problem?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) tends to increase from the start of September, as days get darker and colder. Many people suffer from SAD but symptoms vary in severity from person to person. SAD is a horrible thing to experience, but plenty of people go through it and there are lots of ways to treat it. consulted the experts to find out everything you need to know about the symptoms of SAD and how common the condition is.

If you’ve never heard anyone self-identify as having Seasonal Affective Disorder, you probably think it’s very rare.

However, the NHS estimates that around one in 15 people in the UK are affected by SAD between September and April, and symptoms can increase during December, January and February.

Women are four times more likely to be affected than men and are more at risk if they are between the ages of 18 and 30, and have a family history of depression, bipolar disorder or SAD.

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Seasonal affective disorder symptoms

Seasonal affective disorder is wrongly understood as a mental condition that causes sadness in the winter.

Symptoms can be similar to that of depression and especially occur in the autumn months.

Dr Shungu Hilda M’gadzah, lead consultant psychologist at Inclusion Psychologists, said: “The main symptoms include feeling unhappy, persistent low mood, and even a degree of hopelessness and despair.”

However, Dr M’gadzah said: “For many, it’s nothing to worry about and taking some quick and simple steps can make all the difference.”

Other symptoms include a loss of pleasure or interest in normal activities, feeling irritable, worthless, guilty or in despair, a lack of energy or lethargy during the day, and struggling to get up in the mornings.

Some people with SAD also crave carbohydrates and can sometimes gain weight as a result.

The problem is so common that some experts don’t see it as a condition.

Jim Lucas, a psychotherapist and well-being specialist at Openforwards, said: “Many people assume that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is an illness.

“However, there is scant evidence to support this claim.

“Sure, we get less vitamin D from the sun, which can leave us feeling sluggish but, fortunately, there are many things people can do to counteract the unwanted effects of seasonal changes.”

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Mr Lucas added: “If you live in a city, visit the nearest park to get your daily dose of nature.

“Secondly, stay connected. Summertime makes it easy to be outside with friends after work, but we’re less likely to do that in the Autumn and Winter.

“Isolation leads to feelings of loneliness, so be sure to see people as much as you can.

“Also, if you spend more time on your own, you can get lost in your head worrying and overthinking.

“This habit tends to worsen your mental health, so now could be a great time to start practising mindful awareness.

“Learn to embrace the moment and stay connected with the outside world. SAD needn’t be a depressive time in your life.

“You’ve just got to adapt and keep doing what makes life worth living.”

While SAD is sometimes treatable at home through lifestyle changes, if SAD is affecting your day-to-day life, you should talk to your GP or pharmacist about the treatment options available to help.

Your GP or pharmacist may recommend you use a lightbox lamp to simulate exposure to sunlight as a form of light therapy.

Herbal remedies like St John’s Wort, which you can normally get at the pharmacy, could also help to improve your mood.

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