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60 Second Factfile: Seasonal Affective Disorder

July 24th was Seasonal Affective Disorder Day in the UK, conveniently timed during one of our many heatwaves this year! Here Health-on-Line takes a closer look at seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and how it affects those who live with it.


Depression, irritability, lethargy, decreased concentration, increased appetite

Living with SAD

SAD is a frustrating condition to live with, because those who live with it will usually feel normal for most of the year, with symptoms only starting to surface during the winter months. It's thought to be the lack of sunlight that causes this depression; the full explanation still isn't known, but a popular theory is that light activates the hypothalamus, which regulates mood. For people with SAD, the hypothalamus stops working, affecting hormone regulation and sleep.


At the moment many people with SAD are advised to invest in a bright light which mimics the light from the sun, replacing some of the light lost during the winter months. Where this doesn't work, cognitive behavioural therapy and antidepressants are usually recommended.


Perhaps the most damaging myth about SAD is that it doesn't actually exist. While many people do face a simple case of the "winter blues", SAD is a debilitating condition that can severely affect a person's life, making it vital that they get the treatment they need to manage it.


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