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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder is sometimes known as “winter depression” because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe during the winter. The symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter. They’re typically most severe during December, January and February.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder often improves and disappears in the spring and summer, although it may return each autumn and winter in a repetitive pattern.

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Experts aren’t sure what causes Seasonal Affective Disorder. But they think it may be caused by a lack of sunlight. Lack of light may:

  • Upset your “biological clock,” which controls your sleep-wake pattern and other circadian rhythms.

  • Cause problems with serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood.

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder

They usually start in the autumn or winter and improve in the spring. The nature and severity of SAD varies from person to person. Some people just find the condition a bit irritating, while for others it can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day life.


Most people with Seasonal Affective Disorder will feel depressed during the autumn and winter.

  1. Feeling stressed or anxious

  2. Becoming less sociable

  3. Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness

  4. Low self-esteem

  5. Tearfulness

  6. A persistent low mood

  7. A loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities

  8. Feeling irritable

A small number of people will experience these symptoms in phases that are separated by “manic” periods where they feel happy, energetic and much more sociable.

Other symptoms

  1. Find it difficult to concentrate.

  2. Have an increased appetite – some people have a particular craving for foods containing lots of carbohydrates and end up gaining weight as a result.

  3. Be less active than normal.

  4. Feel lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day.

  5. Sleep for longer than normal and find it hard to get up in the morning.

Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • Lifestyle measures, including getting as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising regularly and managing your stress levels.

  • Light therapy – where a special lamp called a light box is used to simulate exposure to sunlight.

  • Talking therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or counselling.

  • Antidepressant medication, such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).

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