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Posted: 19th October 2022

SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder

What is SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that you experience during particular seasons or times of year. Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.

If you have SAD, you'll experience depression during some seasons in particular, or because of certain types of weather or temperature. You can experience it in winter or summer.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

It is important to note that symptoms of SAD are different for everyone, and can vary season to season, so you might also have other kinds of feelings which aren't listed below:

  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Not wanting to see people
  • Feeling sad, low, tearful, guilty or hopeless
  • Feeling anxious, angry and agitated
  • Being more prone to physical health problems, such as colds, infections or other illnesses
  • Sleeping too much, or difficulty waking up (common with SAD in winter)
  • Sleeping too little, or waking up a lot (common with SAD in summer)
  • Changes in your appetite, for example feeling hungrier or not wanting to eat
  • Losing interest in sex or physical contact
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Other symptoms of depression

If you also have other mental health problems, you might find that things get worse at times when you're affected by SAD.

Real Life Stories

Read real life stories on the National Mind website here

Myths & Misconceptions of SAD

  1. Seasonal affective disorder only occurs during winter. WRONG! It can also occur in Spring and Summer. 

  2. Lightbox treatment is always effective for SAD. WRONG! It can be effective, but not for everyone!

  3. Seasonal affective disorder only affects women. WRONG! Of course not. Like anything regarding your mental health, SAD can impact ANYONE. 

  4. SAD is a minor form of depression. WRONG! SAD is a type of major depressive disorder.

  5. People with SAD can just snap out of it. WRONG! Same goes for a lot of stigma that shouldn't exist surrounding mental ill health. People can't just 'snap out of it'. SAD is not caused by a negative attitude; it is caused by specific abnormal physical changes in the brain and body.

Treatment for SAD

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines say you should be offered the same types of treatments for SAD as for other types of depression, including talking therapies and medication. This is because there isn't currently enough evidence to show whether or not particular treatments help with SAD.

You can read the full guidelines on the NICE website, including recommendations on treating SAD. This information uses the term 'seasonal depression' to describe SAD.

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