Do you suffer with SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder affects 2 million people in the UK and over 12 million people across Northern Europe, according to - while the NHS estimates that around seven per cent of the UK population suffers from SAD, a form of depression that changes with the seasons. Are you one of them?

Man looking depressed

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Darker days and gloomy weather can make us all feel down, more lethargic and less sociable in the winter months, but for some the change in mood can be more severe.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as "winter depression" often begins as the days become shorter during the autumn and generally worsens through December, January and February and, for most people, begins to lift come spring.

Just feeling blue or depressed?

The symptoms of SAD are similar to those of other types of depression - lethargy and fatigue with a lack of interest in day-to-day living, tearfulness, sleep problems, anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating and lack of appetite or over eating.

The condition can also affect libido, with many sufferers losing interest in sex during the winter months. For a small percentage of people, the symptoms become so severe that they require continuous treatment to function throughout the winter months.

According to the NHS it tends to affect younger people, often those in their twenties, but it can begin at any age and children who display irritability, bad behaviour or tiredness may also be suffering.

But there is help available. Unfortunately, there are only a few SAD clinics in the UK but your GP may be able to recommend treatment.

Bright light therapy is often the most effective treatment. According to the mental health charity Mind, phototherapy, as it is called, helps around 80 per cent of people, usually within three to five days.

The range of equipment is growing by the day and light boxes, visors and dawn simulators are among those that enable SAD sufferers to continue their own treatment throughout the winter months.

However, manufacturers recommend trying phototherapy early in winter, as it may not offer relief to those whose symptoms are already severe.

Talking treatments can also be useful - counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behaviour therapy may help to find the factors that contribute to depression and thereby enable SAD sufferers to overcome their problem.

In severe cases, antidepressants are prescribed and those that increase serotonin levels, such as Prozac, have proved successful.

For those displaying milder symptoms, it is important to make the most of the daylight. Go outdoors when you can, especially at midday when the sun is at its brightest. Some find taking vitamin D tablets (or vitamin D-fortified food) can help.

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Do you suffer with SAD? Have you found anything that helps? Let us know below...