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About Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

What is SAD?


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that may affect individuals during the darker winter months of October to March.

Those living in the northern hemisphere may suffer from SAD as the changes in light levels are increased due to less daylight hours during the winter months.

Women account for approximately 75% of SAD cases. SAD is now recognised by doctors as a medical condition, and according to SADA, the UK’s only registered charity dedicated to SAD, this debilitating condition affects approximately 7% of the population and a further 17% have sub-syndromal SAD. SAD symptoms will disappear once spring comes around and individuals will show no signs or symptoms.

SAD can prevent individuals from operating a normal daily life. This can have many implications for work, social lives, personal lives and wellbeing.

Sub-syndromal SAD, or the winter blues, is a milder form of SAD and therefore the symptoms are less severe. Those who suffer from this type of SAD may find it difficult to find motivation to do the simplest of things such as visiting friends, getting out of bed and may experience constant mood swings.

What causes SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is caused by the lack of bright daylight and serotonin production in the body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to positive feelings and happiness.

The lack of Serotonin within the brain may lead to the body making more melatonin at the wrong time of day. This can cause an imbalance in the body's circadian rhythm and ultimately cause SAD and feelings of depression.

Symptoms of SAD

Symptoms of SAD and Sub-syndromal SAD are listed below.

  • Depression
  • Low mood
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Poor sleeping patterns (can't get to sleep / can't wake up)
  • Insomnia
  • Low energy levels / lethargy / tiredness
  • Struggles with routine activities
  • Food cravings (especially for sugary, carbohydrate rich or "stodgy" foods)
  • Loss of libido
  • Weight Gain (through lack of activity and food cravings)

Sub-syndromal SAD sufferers are likely to suffer some of the above symptoms, however, usually without the anxiety and depression.