You may have heard someone joking that they are feeling sad or depressed because of the weather or season but to some this commonly used joke is a reality. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs during specific seasons or during particular weather conditions for a person.
Symptoms of SAD according to the National Health Service in the UK can range from: a constant low mood, loss of pleasure or interest, irritability, feelings of worthlessness or a loss of energy to list a few.
I spoke to someone who was recently diagnosed with this disorder to help give a deeper insight into the condition.
Sara is someone on my course at university, who has been diagnosed with this condition and was comfortable enough to share her experience to help others understand it, below is a conversation we had.
When were you diagnosed?
Back in October. I wasn’t diagnosed per se, because as I was told people don’t really get ‘diagnosed’ for this. Apparently it is a subtype of depression and can be treated as such. Going to the doctor’s truly helped me see that SAD was a concept to consider in terms of what I have experienced within mental health.
Why did you finally decide to seek medical help?
I decided to ask for help when the feelings of worthlessness and constant sadness became overwhelming and I couldn’t find an actual reason behind them. Nothing necessarily bad was happening in my life and I was wallowing in my own sadness day after day.
The GP considered me being on the low side for iron again a possibility for what I was going through. Being vegan and from a family with low iron levels has meant for me, to go back and forth with iron tablets to keep my levels at bay. But this time my iron seemed to be just fine and we still didn’t have an answer.
I got scared because I wasn’t able to snap out of it and saw myself snowballing down further in. I kept on trying to hold on to the idea that I was just having a couple of bad months and that was it, but the feelings wouldn’t leave me. At the next doctor’s appointment he explained the possibility of SAD and I was encouraged to seek counseling along with being prescribed meds.
What are some of the symptoms you personal experience?
I have experienced loss of appetite, intense loss of motivation and the sense of self, developing a messy sleeping schedule (sleeping through the day or not at all ,even if all I do is stay in bed), becoming irritated for no reason and losing interest in any of the things I used to do before.
How does the season specifically affect your mood?
I couldn’t recognise a pattern to tie it to the seasons, but I believe now that the shorter and darker days were intensifying my low moods. Sleeping throughout the day because I don’t manage to at night, means that I miss out on the light period of the day when I can go out and enjoy myself for a while in an attempt to break the monotony of being secluded and trapped within myself. I would have never thought something so small and simple could affect me in such ways.
Do you feel like you experienced the disorder before your diagnosis?
I have in past years, but it has never been as intense as this time. As I said before, I would just discard the feelings I had and hoped that they would just go away with time, which didn’t help in any way because I was just bottling them up and trying to bury my issues in an attempt to not acknowledge them.
Have you found any interesting ways to cope with it?
Not any that are healthy at the same time too. I have been trying to incorporate healthier coping mechanisms lately, like going out for a walk along the beach to clear my mind or trying to get excited about cooking dinner from scratch instead of relying on pre-made food or deliveries.
What would you recommend to someone who may relate to your story?
I can say that taking the steps to seek any type of help is something incredibly important to achieve change and start improving. It’s not an instant cure, of course, but it helps a lot to find the right people to talk to and to get advice from.
If you or anyone else have been experiencing similar persistent emotions as Sara was a please contact your GP. Other wise you can find a list of helpful websites and phone numbers to call below.