ANNUAL LOW Seasonal Affective Disorder typically starts in late autumn and goes away during the spring.
It’s that time of year again. The time has changed and it is getting darker earlier and earlier, the weather has also changed, becoming colder, wetter and greyer, and it can feel like spring is a long way away. Top this off with Covid-19 restrictions and it paints a very bleak picture. For anyone who already suffers with SAD this could potentially be a difficult year.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in late autumn and going away during the spring. As seasons change, people experience a shift in their biological internal clock that can cause them to be out of step with their daily schedule.
The nature and severity of SAD varies from person-to-person. Some people just find the condition a bit irritating but for others, it can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day life.
What is it about winter that can leave us feeling so down in the dumps? There is no one concrete answer as to why some people suffer with SAD and others don’t. Strong evidence shows a link between the lack of sunlight and SAD. SAD is more common in people living far from the equator where there are fewer daylight hours in the winter.
As it affects more women than men, especially in the years between puberty and menopause, it is felt there may be a hormonal link. Genetics may play its part too, as many people with SAD have at least one family member who’ve had bouts of depression or SAD at some time.
Some of the symptoms people may experience with SAD include lack of energy and activity; tiredness and lethargy; sleep disturbances; sadness and anxiety; appetite changes and possible weight gain; withdrawal from family, friends, activities; isolation; loss of libido and interest in physical contact; difficulty concentrating; premenstrual syndrome.
Yes, we live in Ireland where daylight is at a premium. Yes we are in the midst of a global pandemic. And yes, symptoms of SAD should ease off in a few months’ time. However, these are not reasons enough to suffer in silence with this condition.
If you can relate to any of the symptoms above and think you may have SAD, I would caution against self-diagnosis and advise you to speak to your doctor, counsellor or someone you trust. Tell your family and friends about it and the effects it has on you so they are able to help and support you.
Get the sunlight you require through the winter by spending as much time as possible outdoors. Granted, this is more difficult in our Irish winter, but even a short blast of fresh air and daylight each day can make a difference. Antidepressants or talk therapy are other common forms of treatment for SAD. And online support groups are available.
With a combination of the right treatments, a person can realistically expect to relieve all or some of the symptoms of SAD. Don’t keep it to yourself. Be persistent until you find the right treatment for you.
More information about Seasonal Affective Disorder is available online, at www.mentalhealthireland.ie, www.hse.ie, and www.aware.ie.
Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo. More information about Jannah can be found at www.jannahwalshe.ie.