The NHS defines SAD Disorder as a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons.
It can affect those who do not usually suffer from the mental health condition and is often diagnosed at ‘the winter blues.’
Deborah Watson, of the eating disorder charity Wednesday’s Child told Student Problems about the dangers of SAD.
“Whether someone has had a formal diagnosis of SAD or not, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the ‘winter blues’ are real, and heightened, for those living with an eating disorder,
“Prolonged periods of darkness can feed into pre-existing depressive moods, and worsen feelings of worthlessness and social anxiety,
“This combination often sees destructive behaviours exaggerated.”
These traits can be exacerbated in a ‘typical’ student lifestyle, including late nights, lots of alcoholic drinks and lack of proper structure.
She continued, “we have already received a number of calls at Wednesday’s Child over the first few bleak weeks of January, where those suffering from an eating disorder say that they are engaging in the very habits which they have been trying hard to fight,
“We urge those struggling to be kind to themselves and understand that this is naturally a difficult period of the seasonal calendar. Some of the best ways to get yourself through that phase are to reach out to compassionate and empathetic friends, socialise where you feel able, rest when you need to and get a dose of daylight each day.”
The NHS website advises those who feel they may be suffering to contact their GP and discuss their options.
It isn’t known exactly what causes SAD, but there are several theories including a lack of natural sunlight which causes a part of the brain named the hypothalamus to stop working correctly, which ultimately effects the production of several vital chemicals that help us to be happy.
These include melatonin, which is a hormone that makes the human body feel sleepy. Getting too much of this can increase the SAD disorder. It also includes serotonin, which is the hormone which affects mood, appetite and sleep – a lack of sunlight is tied to a lack of this, which increases feelings of depression.
The hypothalamus not working correctly can also throw off your body’s internal clock, causing you to wake up irritated at unusual times.
The NHS suggests four possible solutions to the disorder: lifestyle measures (exercising regularly), light therapy (using a special SAD lamp to imitate natural sunlight), talking therapies (including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or counselling) or using antidepressants like SSRIs to improve serotonin uptake.
Amazon sell a range of SAD lamps whilst others report that salt lamps are helpful to combat the down feelings that often come with the changing weather.
If you need help, don’t forget to contact services like your GP, the Samaritans or local mental health services like MIND.