Seasonal Affective Disorder

A recent survey of 2,000 people by wellbeing brand Healthspan found that 57% were dreading this winter more than usual due to Covid-19 restrictions

Furthermore, we are now entering some of the darkest days of the year and we know lack of natural light can negatively impact mood.

Even if you’ve never experienced a form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) before, the usual protective factors against low mood such as social connectedness, exercise and creativity are to some greater or lesser extent diminished by the Covid-19 social restrictions and guidelines.

Seasonal affective disorder syndrome, also known as SADs, affects an estimated 5% of the population and it is estimated that four times more women than men are affected.

According to the way researchers and clinical diagnose Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD or sometimes referred to as seasonal depression), it is a subcategory of recurrent major depressive disorder but with a distinct seasonal start and end point – this is most commonly winter but some people do also report summer SAD.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

  • The symptoms of SAD are the same as depression but as above, characterised by seasonal variation which include:
  • depressed mood that’s not related to other obvious factors such as bereavement, unemployment or daily demands
  • struggling to engage in normal everyday activities (either completed with great effort or not maintained at all) and lack of enjoyment life
  • unintentional weight loss or gain (more/less than 5% a month) with associated appetite change
  • sleep issues, either insomnia or sleeping too much (hypersomnia)
  • feeling fidgety or restless, or the opposite and feel like your movements and speech are slower than usual – possibly noticeable by others
  • fatigue, lethargy and difficulty with finishing everyday tasks as efficiently as in non-affected months
  • feeling a sense of desperation, hopelessness, worthlessness and/or guilt
  • cognitive impairment such as difficulty in making decisions or concentration
  • recurrent thoughts of death, although not simply fear of dying, either with or without suicidal ideation or suicide attempts

Therefore, the symptoms of major depressive disorder with seasonal variation (SAD) are significant and not simply feeling a bit blue.

Are women more affected than men?
Research suggests that SAD is more common in women than men, with some studies reporting the condition to be four times more prevalent in women. But we should bear in mind that women tend to seek out support for many types of health issues more readily than men, so these estimations may be influenced by gener-mediated help seeking behaviour.

What are your tips for combating winter depression?
Even though there may not be a firm consensus over the precise cause of winter depression, we do know that vitamin D deficiency is associated with low mood.

Therefore, embrace the Scandinavian free-air life known as friluftsliv try to get outside as much as possible in natural light during the colder months as well as investing in a high-quality vitamin D supplement such as Healthspan’s Super Strength Vitamin D3 capsules (180, £14.95) or if you don’t want supplements a spray format with a Vitamin D3 50 Plus Peppermint Spray or Capsules (15ml, 100 daily doses £6.95 healthspan.co.uk).

This mindset of rejoicing in the invigorating, open-air wonders of winter may help to ameliorate some of the dread of this season, which may be contributing to depressive symptoms during the winter.

SADs checklist

  • Symptoms are often improved by using a special light box that emits bright, cool white fluorescent light (2500 lux) similar to natural daylight.
  • Light therapy is best started a month or so before your symptoms usually develop, which for some people is as early as October.
  • Light boxes may work best when timed to come on with increasing brightness before you wake to simulate a natural dawn.
  • Keep warm, get up early rather than lying in bed (which will increase feelings of lethargy), getting out into the open air for exercise as much as possible, and eating little and often during the day.
  • Using a wake-up light such as Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 instead of an ordinary alarm clock (or your phone for that matter!) is a real game-changer this time of year. Lumie Bodyclock wakes you naturally with a sunrise which makes coping with dark autumn and winter mornings much easier, especially if you sufferer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or winter blues. Waking up this way has been shown to improve mood, energy, productivity and the quality of sleep and awakening. Additionally, at bedtime, a fading sunset feature helps you naturally unwind by promoting the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin.
Share