21st February 2018

The Days Are Getting Longer

As I write this article on a late afternoon in February, I can definitely say the days are getting longer. So this seems a good time to write about a pronounced type of depression in the winter months called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short.

Suffering with SAD

So, what is Seasonal Affective Disorder? An Affective Disorder means one which is related to mood, so SAD is a type of mood disorder with a pattern of occurring in late autumn and winter that occurs as a result of lack of daylight. Symptoms might include poor sleep patterns, lethargy and lack of motivation as well as being low in mood, or experiencing anxiety. SAD is a serious form of depression and is more prevalent in those countries with greater variations in daylight hours. The causes are not as obvious as might be thought. They might include certain mood-lifting hormones not being produced when there is no sunlight, or the disruption to a pattern of getting up in the light and coming home from work in the light.

Treatment Options

So, what can be done if we live in northern Europe? We can be alert to the symptoms, but SAD is not likely to be diagnosed until a seasonal pattern has been identified. One of the treatments that people talk about is the use of light boxes but these are not usually prescribed on the National Health Service. However, the NHS webpage on Seasonal Affective Disorder does describe other treatments that would be used to treat other forms of depression or anxiety, such as psychological or other talking treatments and anti-depressant medication.

There are self-help therapies that people can consider such as getting as much exercise outdoors as possible in daylight hours and trying to keep to a regular diet that includes vegetables, fruit, fish oil and Vitamin D supplements.

The Scandinavian Outlook

I was inspired to write this blog after spending Christmas and New Year in northern Norway where the sun never rose above the horizon. So how do people above the Arctic Circle cope? They seem to eke out the benefits of what daylight there is to the maximum. They don’t draw their curtains (or even have curtains), they make use of candles and other lighting in the windows, and they pursue outdoor winter activities as much as they can.

If you want to get more information on this form of depression you could look at the MIND website which has some useful fact sheets on SAD. The NHS choices website has information on how to seek help, and the QCS Depression Policy and Procedure (CC46) gives more information about the nature of depression generally.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Topics: Mental Health
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