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S.A.D. – Seasonal Affective Disorder – Are you a sufferer?

SAD is a depressive disorder which occurs during the winter, starting between September and November and continuing until March or April.  A diagnosis can be made after 3 or more consecutive winters of symptoms, which include a number of the following:-

Sleep problems :-

Usually you have a desire to oversleep and can sometimes find it difficult to stay awake, feeling the need to sleep during the day, more often than usual.

Lethargy :–

Feeling fatigued and have difficulty carrying on with normal routine.

Overeating – Have cravings for carbohydrates and sweets, which usually result in weight gain.

Depression : -

Feelings of misery, guilt or loss of low self-esteem.  Sometimes hopelessness and despair, sometimes apathy and loss of feelings, which lead to inactivity and inertia.

Social problems :-

Where you can feel irritable and avoid social contact.


Feel tense most of the time and find it difficult to deal with stress

Loss of libido:

Decreased interest in sex and physical contact.

Moodiness :

In some sufferers, extremes of mood and short periods of hypomania (overactivity) can occur in Spring and Autumn.

So, what can you do to overcome this seasonal depressive state?

Light Therapy:-

Has been shown to be affective in up to 85% of diagnosed cases.  This is exposure for up to 4 hours a day (average 1-2 hours) to very bright light, at least 10 times the intensity of ordinary domestic lighting. Light treatment should be used daily in Winter (and dull periods in Summer) starting in early Autumn, when the first symptoms appear.  It consists of sitting 2-3 feet away from a light box, usually on a table, allowing the light to shine directly through the eyes.  Treatment is usually effective within 3-4 days and the effect continues provided it is used every day.  Tinted lenses, or any device that blocks the light to the retina of the eye, should not be worn.

Anti-depressant drugs:

Traditional anti-depressant drugs such as tricyclics are not usually helpful for SAD as they exacerbate the sleepiness and lethargy that are symptoms of the illness.  The non-sedative SSR1 drugs such as sertraline (Lustral), paroxetine (Seroxat) and fluoxetine (Prozac) are effective in alleviating the depressive symptoms of SAD and combine well with light therapy.  Daily exposure to as much natural daylight as possible, especially at midday, should help.


Counselling or any complementary therapy which helps the sufferer to relax, accept their illness and cope with it’s limitations are extremely useful.


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