Commonly Asked Mental Health FAQs

Looking after your mind is just as important as keeping your body healthy. Mental health disorders are conditions that affect your thoughts and emotions and interfere with your daily life and relationships with others. Mental illness is common - affecting around one in five people in the United States, according to the NIH. If you’re struggling with your mental health, you’re certainly not alone.

Many mental health issues are relatively mild and temporary. But some people experience serious mental illnesses such as major depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder which have a big impact on their day-to-day life. Mental illnesses can be just as severe and distressing as physical illnesses. But many people are far more reluctant to seek help for psychological problems than they would be for another medical problem.

Experiencing a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety can be confusing and frightening - particularly if you’ve never had it before. Many people are embarrassed to have psychological problems and see their illness as a sign of weakness. They may avoid talking about how they’re feeling with family members and hope the problem will go away by itself.

The good news is that many mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and stress are extremely treatable with the right support. Digital consultations or online therapy can be just as effective as seeing a mental health worker in person. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help from a qualified healthcare professional today.

For more information on specific mental health problems, take a look at our information on:

FAQs

Can a lack of vitamin D cause seasonal affective disorder?

While the specific causes of SAD are not totally understood, it is thought that a vitamin D deficit can indeed lead to SAD symptoms. The reason is that serotonin production in our bodies is stimulated by vitamin D. Since sunlight helps us produce vitamin D, less sun in the winter can lead to a vitamin D deficiency. That change can affect serotonin and mood.

Can I take an online test to see if I have seasonal affective disorder?

Yes. If you feel that you may suffer from some of the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, there are a number of online self-assessment seasonal affective disorder tests you can use to check whether you may be suffering from SAD.

In general, SAD assessments take the form of a short questionnaire that only takes a few minutes to complete. Many of the assessments include questions on a scale rating of 1-5 for you to choose from.

If, after taking a test, you discover that you might be suffering from seasonal affective disorder then you should contact your doctor immediately so that they can confirm or deny a diagnosis and suggest the best course of treatment.

What is light therapy for seasonal affective disorder?

Since the 1980s, light therapy has been regularly used in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder. It aims to expose people with SAD to a bright light every day to make up for the lack of natural bright sunshine in the colder months.

For this treatment, the person sits in front of a very bright light box every day for about 30 to 45 minutes, usually first thing in the morning, from fall to spring. The light boxes, which are about 20 times brighter than ordinary indoor light, filter out potentially damaging UV light, making them safe to use. However, people with certain eye diseases or people taking certain medications that increase sensitivity to sunlight may need to use alternative treatments or use light therapy under medical supervision.

What are some of the most common symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?

Common symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Low mood, low self-esteem
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Changes in sleeping pattern
  • Difficulty concentrating on regular tasks
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Use of drugs or alcohol for comfort
  • Feeling angry, irritable, stressed, or anxious a lot of the time
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair

Can seasonal affective disorder happen in summer?

While most SAD sufferers experience symptoms during the winter months, a small proportion of people experience symptoms during summers. In fact, about 10% of people with SAD get it “in reverse”. In fact, in countries that are near the equator, summer SAD is more prevalent. Experts aren’t sure why, but the longer days, and increasing heat and humidity may play a role. As with winter SAD, symptoms of summer depression often include loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, depression, weight loss, and anxiety.