GQ Magazine | Seasonal Affective Disorder

Could The Change Of Season Be Affecting Your Mental Health?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly known as SAD for short, is a form of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. Smart TMS Medical Director, Dr Leigh Neal, discussed SAD with GQ Magazine readers, including treatment that could help them.

GQ LogoAround 3% of the population in the UK suffer from the most severe form of SAD, suffering throughout the winter months. Some sufferers, however, find summer brings on their symptoms, which is referred to as reverse SAD. For many, their depression can impact their day to day life, making it difficult to live as normal.

What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?

Dr Leigh Neal seasonal affective disorder

Dr Neal told readers;

“Seasonal affective disorder actually impacts one in five of us and usually sets in sometime around October, becoming most severe around January and February. The severity of symptoms differs from person to person. Only 3 per cent of the us will suffer with the most severe form of SAD.”

He continued to explain the symptoms you may feel when suffering from SAD;

“Sufferers notice a significant reduction in energy levels during winter months and often feel less inclined to socialise. They may also experience a change in appetite and sleep patterns, irritability or feelings of despair. Symptoms can disappear altogether during spring and summer months, and then return again during autumn.”

What causes seasonal affective disorder?

It’s not known exactly what causes seasonal affective disorder, although it’s thought that lack of sun exposure can impact our hormone levels – namely melatonin and serotonin. These hormones impact on our mood and sleep patterns.

How is mild SAD treated?

Luckily, Dr Neal explains to GQ readers that SAD is very much treatable. He explains;

“For less severe sufferers, lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Take a look at your day to see if there are any opportunities to increase the amount of time you spend outdoors during daylight hours – even when the weather is cloudy.”

He also advocates for regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet to improve your symptoms.

Another option for treating the symptoms of SAD is the use of a specialist lightbox. By sitting near a light emitting replication sunlight, the symptoms can ease.

What about severe SAD? Is that treatable?

Your GP might prescribe you antidepressants to ease your low mood, but it’s important to check that the medication won’t make you feel even more tired. A common side effect of many antidepressants is drowsiness, which has the potential to increase your SAD symptoms further. Dr Neal highlighted other medication side effects for you to consider;

“Many antidepressants have fairly severe side effects including sexual dysfunction, nausea, blurred vision and increase or decrease in weight.”

New, innovative treatment, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is an alternative to medication that has high success rates in treating depressive disorders and other mental health problems. The side effects of TMS are minimal, with some patients having a mild headache, some scalp discomfort or twitching in the facial muscles during treatment.

Dr Neal highlighted how TMS can help;

“TMS is a simple treatment. It uses a coil to create pulses of magnetic energy that can stimulate or dampen down certain areas of the brain that are known to contribute to particular psychiatric conditions. The treatment has been approved by NICE as an effective and safe treatment for depression in the UK.”

Smart TMS

Although SAD can leave you feeling awful for a large percentage of the year, there is good news. Seasonal affective disorder is treatable and Smart TMS can help. If lifestyle tweaks haven’t helped, you may wish to visit your GP about your depression. Whether you have tried antidepressants or would rather avoid them entirely, TMS has similar remission rates, but without the potentially intense side effects.

To learn more about TMS and how it can help you overcome your seasonal affective disorder, contact a member of the team, who will be happy to talk you through the treatment.

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