Category Archives: SAD

Brighter Outlook For SAD Sufferers

Following on from a successful pilot programme carried out in Cornwall in 2008/2009, the UK Met Office may soon be offering help to those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD as it is more commonly known.


If it goes ahead, the plan is, they will provide advice and send out text messages or email alerts when gloomy weather is on the way to give people a couple of days notice to use their light boxes or to take other appropriate action.


Do you suffer?


The symptoms of SAD are mainly lethargy, sleep disturbances, carbohydrate cravings and weight gain, loss of libido and depression and anxiety.  SAD also causes the immune system to weaken which of course means more colds, flu, and more misery. The symptoms usually appear gradually as the winter months approach and the amount of sunlight reduces, only to disappear again in spring.


For some people with SAD, the symptoms can be so severe they are disabling and make the winter months a living nightmare. It is estimated that around 2 million people in the UK alone suffer from SAD, however, no one knows the true number of people suffering from SAD because for many, the symptoms are no more than a mild inconvenience and these people are unlikely to associate their winter blues with something that can be alleviated or avoided.


Subsyndromal SAD may be more common than we think


There’s a very mild form of the winter blues where the sufferer feels lethargic and has some sleep problems, and they may also crave carbohydrates and eat more, but they don’t experience any symptoms of depression or anxiety – this is known as Subsyndromal SAD. So, there are many people who could be suffering from this mild form of SAD who don’t even know it.


SAD is rare around the equator


SAD is very rare in those living around the equator where the sun is high in the sky and the length of the days and nights are roughly equal. That’s not the case for those living in the Northern Hemisphere where the sun remains very low in the sky during the winter months.


Melatonin levels increase


Some reckon that SAD is caused by changes in melatonin production. Melatonin is basically a hormone that helps to regulate our circadian rhythm or body clock. As the sun goes down, melatonin production increases and we start to feel sleepy and at the same time Serotonin levels drop. Serotonin is the feel good hormone.


Vitamin D levels to drop


Others say that SAD is caused by Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin. This is because we get most of the Vitamin D we need from the sun shining on our skin. Most people are quite unaware if they are deficient in vitamin D as doctors don’t routinely check vitamin D levels. So, it’s quite simple; the main cause of SAD is lack of sunlight.


According to the Daily Express, anyone living 52 degrees North cannot produce enough Vitamin D during the winter months To put this in perspective, this is anyone living north of Birmingham.


A Brighter Outlook for all


Back in 2008/2009 the Met Office in the UK ran a pilot programme (Brighter Outlook) in Cornwall in order to ascertain the feasibility and benefit of delivering an innovative weather-based alert service as part of a care package for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder.


Those who participated in the programme were all given a light box and a self-help booklet. To measure how effective the Brighter Outlook care package was the participants each had three sessions with a mental health worker where a Patient Health Questionnaire was completed. Each participant was also asked to evaluate the programme at the end of the study.


The results showed that there was a marked improvement in symptoms after only 4 weeks on the programme, and overall, the service was considered highly effective, with the vast majority claiming the service should be promoted and more widely available.


The Met Office are now considering rolling out the service to the wider public to offer advice and support for those suffering from SAD, just as they currently offer advice and help to those suffering from Hay Fever or Asthma, or how to deal with heat waves or particularly cold spells.


According to the Telegraph, Patrick Saychon, the health business manager at the Met Office, said the Met Office was in talks with the NHS, the manufacturers of lightboxes and private health experts about the “Brighter Outlook” service.


“We are talking to a different number of people” he said, reported the Telegraph.


“If we deliver a service that warns sufferers about the period of gloomy weather and provides them with materials, it will help them improve their mental health.”


In the meantime, anyone who feels they may be suffering from SAD should seek advice from their doctor.

SAD Info Graphic , Seasonal affective disorder

Out Like a Light: SAD and Winter Blues

This infographic was commissioned by First Choice.

Are you a SAD sufferer and don’t know it?

It’s coming to that time of year again when for many people it can become more and more difficult to get out of bed in the morning and when energy levels start to dip dramatically.

It’s a time when some people find that their mood becomes low and depression sets in, and their libido flies out the window.

They may experience this every winter only to find that it all changes and they get back to normal again in springtime when the days get noticeably longer.

What we’re talking about here is SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of winter blues caused by the changing seasons and the lack of light during winter, which means that SAD predominantly affects people living in the northern hemisphere.

The symptoms of SAD can include sleep problems, overeating and weight gain, depression, lack of energy, loss of libido, relationship problems and much more.

The thing is, SAD is a type of depression and as such is considered a mental health problem. Many people suffering from SAD are unaware that what they are experiencing is the effects of a depressive illness which can be helped. They are not lazy as some people actually believe.

Susana Adame, a long term SAD sufferer who wasn’t diagnosed until she was in her 30’s, recently wrote about stigma and SAD in the Guardian newspaper.

“Although Sad is an illness that major health organisations recognise, far too many people go undiagnosed” she said.

“There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the biggest are wrapped around the social stigma that is so intimately connected to depression.

“Depression, despite decades of work by awareness organisations, still has ‘laziness’ associated with it. Some think that if you’d just change your point of view, get out for a walk, eat properly, talk with friends, not isolate yourself, get back to work etc – you’d feel better. Not so.”

One treatment for SAD that is proving to be particularly helpful is the use of special light boxes to help replace the natural bright light that is lacking during the winter.

It involves placing the light box in a position where the light from the box can reach your eyes, you don’t have to sit and stare directly at it. Just 30 minutes a day can be enough to alleviate the symptoms of SAD.

If you think you suffer from SAD speak to your doctor who will be able to give you more information.

“Happy Chair” in Scotland offers hope to SAD sufferers

It’s coming to that time of year again when many people in the northern hemisphere suffer from a type of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or the Winter Blues.

Now a student from a university in Scotland, a country that has a lot of SAD sufferers because of the large number of long dark winter days, has developed a “happy chair” in order to help people suffering from winter depression.

Chuang, Meng Jung decided to develop the chair which can offer light therapy to SAD sufferers, after noticing how the weather and the amount of light there was in Scotland was so different to what it was in her native country Taiwan.

“Taiwan has very hot weather and we tend to cover up in the summertime. Here it is different. You love the sunshine and love to sunbathe” the Scotsman newspaper reported Chuang as saying.

“In Taiwan, during the summer we use umbrellas to cover our bodies. It was interesting for me. I wanted to know what local people thought about the weather here.”

Chuang carried out her own research and discovered that many people in Scotland are suffering from the symptoms of SAD.

“In Taiwan we don’t have this problem” she said.

“So I decided to focus on this condition because up to half a million people are thought to experience that problem.”
Her research also revealed that women were twice as likely to suffer from SAD as men and that 20 percent of women experienced symptoms of depression during pregnancy.

The prototype of Chuang’s “Revive” chair, which emits the recommended daily dose of light and at the same strength as other light therapy equipment, is going on display at Edinburgh College of Art where she is currently a student.

“The chair is touch sensitive, the lights come on for the recommended daily dose of 30 minutes, turning back to white light after this time so the user knows they’ve had their ‘dose’,” said Chuang.

During the course of her research she discovered that light can be an effective therapy for SAD sufferers but those who wanted it often had to pay out a lot of money for their own equipment. She is hoping that her chair will be able to go into full production.

She suggests that to cut down on the costs her chair could also be used in doctors’ surgeries and clinics and rented out by the hour.