Seasonal affective disorder – SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Known in English as SAD, Seasonal Affection Disorder is a type of depression that comes and goes according to the seasons.

It is often referred to as the “Winter Blues” or “Seasonal Depression” as symptoms tend to appear and be more intense in winter.

Symptoms often begin in autumn as the days shorten, being most severe in December, January, and February.

SAD often improves and disappears in spring and summer, although it could return in autumn and winter on a repetitive pattern.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is thought to affect about two million people in the United Kingdom and Northern Europe. It can affect people of any age, including children.


  • feeling low-spirited and unsociable

  • loss of pleasure or interest in daily activities, apathy

  • irritability

  • feeling of despair, guilt or worthlessness

  • feeling apathetic (lack of energy) and drowsy during the day

  • sleep more than normal and have difficulty getting up in the morning or trouble sleeping

  • carbohydrates and weight gain, eating more than normal

For some people these symptoms can be severe and make it difficult for them every day.

When to see your doctor

You should consider seeing your GP if you think you have SAD and you have difficulty getting through.

Your GP may conduct an assessment and ask about your mood, lifestyle, eating habits, and sleep patterns, plus any changes in your thoughts and behaviour during different seasons.

Your GP is also a point of information and referral to other professionals.

What causes SAD?

The exact cause is not yet known, but is often related to short exposure to sunlight during winter and fall.

The main theory is that a lack of sunlight could stop the correct functioning of a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which affects:

-the production of melatonin: melatonin is a hormone that makes you sleepy, in people with SAD, the body can produce it at higher levels

-production of serotonin: serotonin is a hormone that affects mood, appetite and sleep. A lack of light could lead to low levels of serotonin, which is related to depression

  • the internal body clock (circadian rhythm): The body uses daylight to regulate several important functions such as getting up in the morning, because low levels of light in winter can influence your internal clock and lead to SAD symptoms

  • it is also possible that some people are more vulnerable to SAD as a result of their genes, since some cases appear in the same family

Fight the “Blue Winter”

According to SADA (Seasonal Affective Disorder Association) the following ten recommendations could help, each person is different, so what can work for one person may not work for another, but it is worth a try. It works at first, keep trying.

1) Stay active

Studies have shown that a one-hour walk in the middle of the day might help

2) Go outside

Go out to benefit from the natural light of the day, especially on sunny days. Once at home, use pale colours that reflect the natural light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.

3) Do not pass cold

Being cold can make you feel more depressed, so staying warm can reduce SAD. Use hot foods and drinks, wear clothes and shoes that hold well and keep your house between 18 and 21 degrees.

4) Eat healthy

A healthy diet will stimulate your mood, giving you more energy and maintaining your weight in the winter.

5) Look at the light

Some people find effective light therapy for seasonal depression. One way to get light in winter is to sit in front of a light box about two hours a day. These light boxes are about 10 times brighter than light at home or office. They are not available on NHS and cost about £ 100 or more.

6) Find a new hobby

Keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to keep SAD symptoms at bay. This is because you have something to desire and concentrate on.

7) Get in touch with your family and friends

It has been proven that socializing is good for maintaining mental health and helps in this case as well. Make an effort to stay in touch with people who care about you and accept any invitation to social events, even if you go just for a little while.

8) Talk about the topic

Treatments like therapy, psychotherapy or therapy on cognitive behaviour can help you deal with the symptoms. Go to your GP to get you information and resources available.

9) Join a support group

Sharing your experience with others who know what it is to have SAD is very therapeutic and can make symptoms more bearable.

SADA is the only registered charity dedicated to this problem, joining them costs £ 20 (10 for concessions), and you would receive an informative pack, news regularly, discounts on products like light box, and contacts for help.

10) Seek help

If your symptoms are so bad that you cannot live a normal life, go to your doctor for help.