Liverpool one of most concerned cities in UK about Seasonal Affective Disorder - what is it? How is it treated?

Research suggests Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is linked to light levels and is therefore more prevalent in the winter months.

A study has named Liverpool among the top ten UK cities most concerned about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - a condition that affects mental health and wellbeing during the winter months.

Analysis of internet search terms and search volume related to SAD was used to gauge the level of concern about the condition in Europe’s 20 largest countries, with the UK topping of the list.

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The research, conducted by The Independent Pharmacy, included search terms such as: “seasonal affective disorder symptoms”, “what is sad?” and “how to treat seasonal affective disorder?”.

Liverpool came out as the eighth most troubled city in the UK when it comes to SAD. Nearby Manchester was number two on the list, with London in the top spot.

The rankings were based on over 95,000 searches.

What’s been said

Pharmacist Scott McDougall (MPharm), co-founder of The Independent Pharmacy, said: “SAD shares many of its symptoms with depression, the primary ones being a loss of interest in everyday activities, a persistently-low mood, feelings of worthlessness, guilt or despair, a lack of energy, and a tendency to sleep for longer than is usual.”

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Mental health charity Mind say SAD is a type of depression that is experienced during particular seasons or times of year.

Research suggests it is linked to light levels and is therefore more prevalent in the winter months from November to February when there is less sunlight.

When it’s dark, your brain produces a hormone called melatonin which helps your body get ready for sleep. Some people with SAD seem to produce much higher levels of melatonin during winter.

SAD often causes sufferers to exhibit symptoms of depression including trouble waking up in the mornings, reduced energy levels, increased irritability, and a persistently low mood.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

If you have SAD, Mind suggest you might experience some of the following signs and symptoms:

  • finding it hard to concentrate
  • not wanting to see people
  • sleep problems, such as sleeping more or less than usual, difficulty waking up, or difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • feeling sad, low, tearful, guilty or hopeless
  • changes in your appetite, for example feeling more hungry or wanting more snacks
  • being more prone to physical health problems, such as colds, infections or other illnesses
  • losing interest in sex or physical contact
  • other symptoms of depression

Self-care and tips to help with SAD

Living with SAD can be difficult, but there are lots of things you can do to help yourself cope.

  • Make the most of natural light. It might help to spend time in natural light, for example going for walks, spending time in parks or gardens, or simply sitting near a window.
  • Plan ahead. Try to make meals in advance and freeze them if you know you are likely to lack energy.
  • Try to get enough sleep. For lots of people who experience depression, sleeping too little or too much can be a daily problem.
  • Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels.
  • Physical exercise. If you find exercise a challenge remember that even gentle activities like yoga, swimming or walking can be a big boost to your mood.
  • Hygiene. When you’re experiencing depression, it’s easy for hygiene to not feel like a priority. But small things, like taking a shower and getting fully dressed whether or not you’re going out of the house, can make a big difference to how you feel.
  • Vitamin D supplements. The Independent Pharmacy say that while there isn’t a definitive scientific opinion on the cause of SAD low levels of vitamin D have been noted in people who suffer from the condition.

It’s important to speak to a GP if you’re struggling with SAD, as they will be able to discuss symptoms with you and recommend the best treatment.