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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is a form of depression that affects up to 2 million people in the UK and Ireland. Although most common in winter months (November to February), it can be experienced all year. It can affect anyone, but is most common in those aged between 18 and 30. It is caused by a change in the seasons.

Symptoms include:

  • Tiredness and a lack of energy

  • Sleep problems

  • Tearfulness, sad feelings, guilt and despair

  • Anxiety

  • Panic Attacks

  • Feeling anti-social or irritable

  • Mood swings

  • Concentration problems

  • Poor or no libido

  • Overeating, or eating unhealthily.

As days shorten and daylight decreases, sufferers experience sudden changes in their mood, energy levels and their sleep pattern. This happens year on year at the same time each year and continue until the days get longer in early Spring. Mild forms of S.A.D. are known as the Winter Blues.

Our circadian rhythm (our natural body clock) is responsible for functions such as digestion and appetite, sleep quality and duration, and our general mood. A lack of sunlight affects this rhythm. Going to work in the dark, and coming home in the dark can mean that for much of the week, some people do not get any natural daylight.

Light therapy is often used to treat S.A.D, and symptoms can ease within days of starting to use a light box. But other ways may help. If you work indoors, make sure you go outside for a short while on your breaks or at lunchtime.

If you think you may be suffering from S.A.D. speak to your GP. If you are an employer with employees suffering from S.A.D., you may wish to read this article.

This post is part of our Four Seasons of Health and Safety campaign.


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