Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that arrives in late fall and departs in early spring. It can be brought on by the days getting shorter, fewer daylight hours and the weather getting colder. It is estimated that SAD affects 10 million people in the USA. Raising awareness of the condition is key to helping fight it. It needs to be normal to talk about mental health.

The symptoms of SAD

SAD has a recurring pattern each year. The main symptoms are having low energy and feeling depressed. It is common to sleep too much (hypersomnia) and indulge in overeating – particularly craving carbs. Social withdrawal and the overwhelming urge to hibernate are characteristic of SAD. The disorder is four times as likely to affect women than men. It is also more common in younger adults and those that have a family history.

The importance of exercise

Getting outside for regular exercise is important if you want to beat the winter blues. Exercise releases serotonin in the brain which improves mood and gives you a sense of wellbeing. Getting outside also helps expose you to sunlight, essential for the production of Vitamin D. A Vitamin D deficiency exacerbates the symptoms of depression.Taking a supplement is one of the treatments given for SAD. Even a brisk walk three times a week can help to improve symptoms. Try and make exercise part of your routine, even if you feel like staying in and hiding from the world outside.

Medication and light therapy

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are often prescribed for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder and can be very effective. This type of antidepressant works by increasing the levels of serotonin that your brain produces, making you feel happier. It is important to raise awareness about this type of medication. There shouldn’t be a stigma attached to taking an antidepressant. If you have an infection, you would medication. If you have a serotonin imbalance, it can be treated with medication to make you feel better. Light therapy is also used to treat SAD. This involves sitting in front of a light box for a short period every day and exposing yourself to ultraviolet rays.

Seasonal Affective Disorder can really affect everyday life – especially as it occurs every year. Raising awareness of the symptoms and the treatment will help the nation’s understanding and gain support for those who are coping with it.