SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

August 2, 2017

Are you going through a tough time at present with your mood mirroring the cold, dark, grey days of winter?

If so, you have probably got a dose of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and if it keeps up you probably need to see your doctor.

In the meantime there are a few things you can do to try and counter that “down” feeling.

A report on the ABC earlier this week quoted Dr Milford McArthur, chair of the Tasmanian branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists as confirming the lack of light in winter could seriously affect some people’s moods.

He said disruption to sleeping patterns was a key sign of a mood disorder such as depression.

“SAD sometimes is a little atypical from normal depression,” he said.

“Sometimes there’s a reversal of the more common symptoms; instead of not sleeping well, people tend to oversleep; instead of losing weight, people tend to gain weight.

“We would always tell our patients who have clear mood disorders to try and have regular hours.

“It’s much better, if you can, to be awake during the day and asleep at night, that’s the best thing.”

Dr McArthur said some people tried things such as lightboxes, which have a blue or white light, but getting natural sunlight was free and there was still debate about how effective the boxes were on moods.

There is some thought that a diet high in omega 3 fatty acids can alleviate the symptoms of SAD.

“I usually suggest to my patients with mood disorders they do take fish oils, that is the omega 3 fatty acids, and probably vitamin D,” Dr McArthur said.

“But quite a lot of Tasmanians are low in vitamin D, so it’s hard to know how important that is because it seems to be so common.”

And while it can be harder to find the motivation in the cold, keeping active with exercise is a good way to help you stay mentally healthy as well.

“Exercise is important,” Dr McArthur said.

“There is some evidence that exercise is nearly as good as an antidepressant if you’re going to treat someone with depression.

“People should always start off with their exercise, being up during the day, [getting] morning light, perhaps their fish oils and vitamin D.

“Who knows for certain if it will work, but it’s probably not much to lose, not much harm. If it’s helpful, why not?”

And if the winter blues get too much, speak to your GP.

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