Eating your feelings? Feeling tired and irritable? Studies show this is the worst time of year for people with SAD.

Many of us crave summertime gladness all-year round. Summer is the time when ‘Pimms o’clock’ and meeting friends in pub gardens spring to mind.

Inevitably living in Britain means there is far more to enjoy in the summer months if you don’t particularly like the rain and cold. But, for people with SAD, winter is even more debilitating and can lead to suicidal thoughts.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition more likely to affect people in the winter and linked to reduced exposure to sunlight.  The majority of people that are diagnosed as suffering with SAD are women in their childbearing years, although some suggest men are less likely to seek professional help if struggling with symptoms.

According to the NHS the main symptoms can include:

• persistent low mood

• loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities

• irritability

• feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness

• feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day

• sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning

•          craving carbohydrates and weight gain

‘Absolute worst’

Doctor Robert Levitan of the University of Toronto says population studies indicate February is the worst time of year. A post-holiday slump and broken resolutions were described by many patients as a cause of low-mood. Although some suggested ‘the third week in January is the absolute worst’, due to a combination of ‘cumulative environmental light deprivation and psychological factors.’

Causes of the disorder are not completely understood, although it’s believed to be a type of depression, and can be medicated similarly.

Despite having some symptoms that many link to depression, disrupted sleep and loss of appetite are the antithesis of SAD, which is more closely linked to overeating and oversleeping.

SAD is treated much like other forms of depression. Self-help methods, therapy and exercise are always useful tools when managing episodes of extremely low-mood.

Treatment and help

Light therapy is a good way to counteract lack of sunlight that is inevitable in darker months. Light boxes are used to simulate the feeling of sunlight using broad-spectrum ultra-violet light.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is recommended to sufferers of SAD, depressive and anxiety disorders. This is a type of talking therapy that helps address the way you manage problems. It explores how thoughts, feelings and sensations are interconnected and breaks down the negative cycles that make people feel persistently overwhelmed.

One in four people experience mental health problems every year in England, according to charity Mind. Whether SAD affects you or not, it’s always important to seek help when your mental health is affecting everyday life.

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