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Seasonal disorder 'affects one in five Brits'

19 October 2017 09:08

A fifth of Britons suffer with mild SAD

A fifth of Britons suffer with mild SAD

The onset of winter and a reduction in daylight hours are leading experts to issue advice to sufferers of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Preventative measures, treatment options and lifestyle tweaks are all suggestions from medics to reduce the effects of SAD - a recognised form of clinical depression linked to sunshine.

While winter blues are not uncommon. Subthreshold SAD - a mild version of the condition - affects about one in five people in Britain, a leading psychiatrist has said.

According to Dr Balu Pitchiah, a SAD specialist and consultant psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre, between 3% and 8% of Britons suffer with SAD in its most severe form.

Research shows people diagnosed with the condition have a slightly different sensitivity to light and are predisposed to developing SAD, the doctor says.

"We usually find people get symptoms of depression throughout the winter months, but mostly from September to March or April," says Dr Pitchiah.


Dr Pitchiah suggests an early discussion with your doctor could prevent symptoms getting out of hand.

"There are many interventions that can help, so why wait until things get worse?," he continued.

Modifications to lifestyle could prevent the symptoms from escalating, the psychologist adds, saying not everyone will need antidepressants to ward off the effects of SAD.

Behavioural changes such as physical activity and new hobbies can also boost a low mood, while maintaining social contact with friends and family can also help.

Experts recommend a diet rich in vitamin D - the sunshine vitamin - to reduce the effects of SAD.

Treatment options

Although anti-depressents can supress the effects of SAD, cognitive behavioural therapy has longer-term effects.

Stuart Haydock, a clinical psychologist at Bupa, notes: "CBT is one of the most successful talking therapies for depression and may help someone manage their SAD symptoms. It may even stop the symptoms coming back each year."

A winter holiday to a sunny destination can also improve symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. If you're planning a trip, medical travel insurance can cover you for any unexpected medical costs when travelling overseas.