When Winter gets you down

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Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder.

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While many people don’t enjoy the Winter months, for some the shorter days can have more serious effects. This is because around 2 million adults in the UK experience Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, which is a type of depression triggered by the darker days in Winter.

What causes SAD?

The exact cause is not known, but the lack of sunlight appears to be important. This is probably due to its effects on brain chemicals such as serotonin and the hormone melatonin which helps to regulate our mood.

How do I know if I have SAD?

Many of the symptoms of SAD are similar to those of depression: a persistent low mood; a loss of interest in everyday activities; and feelings of despair or worthlessness. These are often combined with lethargy, sleeping for a long time and finding it hard to get up, as well as craving carbohydrates and putting on weight.

Some people may only experience SAD for the first time between the ages of 20 and 30 and SAD affects four times as many women as men.

Can vitamin D help? In short, no. Despite research, there is no proven effect of increased does of vitamin D on SAD.

When Livi can help. You should speak to your GP if you have most, or all of these symptoms and they are really starting to impact on your day-to-day activities and you’re struggling to cope. Your GP can help you identify the causes, point you to support, resources and initiate treatment if indicated.

If SAD is diagnosed, some lifestyle measures such as exercising more in daylight, using a light-box, eating nutritious food and sleeping properly may work for some people. For others, talking therapies and, in severe cases, antidepressants may be necessary.

Reviewed by: Asimah Hanif, Lead GP, Livi

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