Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that comes on in autumn and lifts in spring. So how can you tell whether you have it?
Long nights, grey days – there is not much to love about winter. Christmas may bring a dash of festive cheer, but spring is still a long way off. So is winter making you properly depressed or just a bit blue? An annual dose of depression suggests that you may have seasonal affective disorder (Sad), a bona fide condition that was recognised even in ancient Greece. The physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia, writing in the second century, advised that “lethargics are to be laid in the light, and exposed to the rays of the sun (for the disease is gloom)”.
In 1984, the disease was rediscovered in 29 patients by Norman Rosenthal, a South African psychiatrist. Eleven of his depressed patients improved when treated with bright light. Sad is now included with major depressive disorders in the DSM-IV, a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association and used by doctors to diagnose mental health problems. It affects 6% of us, and is four times more common in women of childbearing age.