[How You Feeling?] Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Robert Wheatley – Health and Innovation Editor

Every month, Trident Media will highlight certain mental disorders to raise awareness of the importance of taking care of your mind’s wellbeing. University can be stressful, so paying attention to your mental health is very important. If you’re ever feeling like you can’t cope, reach out to friends and family, and if needed, the University of Hertfordshire has services available to help manage your stress.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that occurs in response to seasonal change, typically affecting people in the winter months, though some experience their depressive symptoms during the spring or early summer. According to mind, people in countries like the UK have a higher chance of experiencing SAD where daylight hours and weather drastically changes during certain times of the year.

Via Pixabay

Via Pixabay

Symptoms are similar to that of depression, including feelings of hopelessness, low energy, a loss of interest in things, appetite changes and difficulty concentrating. Suicidal thinking may be experienced — if you or someone you know are experiencing this, hotlines like Samaritans exist, as well as some specifically for LGBTQ persons like Switchboard. If you’re worried about someone, Samaritans also offer a helpful guide.

Depending on whether the SAD is winter-onset or summer-onset, symptoms can vary. Winter depression symptoms include fatigue, oversleeping, weight gain and irritability; whereas summer depression tends to result in insomnia, weight loss, agitation and anxiety. Those with bipolar may experience symptoms of mania in the summer months and depression in the winter months.

Like a lot of mental health conditions, we’re not entirely sure what causes it: it could be a result of less sunlight, causing an interference with our circadian rhythm, our serotonin levels (the chemical that affects mood) or melatonin (another chemical that impacts our mood). Interestingly, certain factors like gender and age may play a part, with the disorder mostly affecting women and younger people.

There are a variety of treatment options available, and these will depend on how severe your symptoms are. Self-help treatment like getting as much sun as possible, reducing stress as well as eating healthy and exercising benefit depression in general. One option is to utilise light therapy using a lightbox: this mimics natural light in the summer, appearing to result in a change in mood-affecting chemicals in the brain.

Via Pixabay

Via Pixabay

If you find symptoms unmanageable by yourself, that’s totally OK: plenty of other treatment options exist too. Counselling can be beneficial for those with SAD, and this is offered by the University of Hertfordshire’s counselling services. These can refer you to GP services, and these may recommend medication to help you cope with symptoms — taking medication is something you need to discuss with a doctor.

As with all mental health conditions, and your emotional wellbeing in general, get support if and when you need it — you deserve happiness.

Disclaimer: while our articles utilise reliable sources, the best information available will be at your local GP.

#mentalhealth #SAD

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