Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Find out about the stigma that people face who suffer with SAD.

 Content Editor

​Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.
SAD is sometimes known as "winter depression" because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter.

A few people with SAD may have symptoms during the summer and feel better during the winter.
Symptoms of SAD
  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • irritability
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
For some people, these symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities.
Read more about the symptoms of SAD.

Unfortunately there is There is many are many misconceptions and stigma that  surrounds SAD, here are some examples:
 "The weather can't affect you that much" and "SAD isn't real"
Whilst it is correct to say the weather doesn't affect people, the changing  seasons do. SAD is often triggered by the short days and less exposure to sunlight rather than the rain or cold.

"Winter never made you sad out when you were younger so it can't do now"
This is typical for most sufferers and will find that they have always felt down in winter, they are just not have be aware of it at the time.

 "Everyone experiences low energy during the winter months you can snap yourself out of it."
Yes, the winter months can be a gloomy time of year but suffering from SAD is a lot different to just feeling sad and is something which impacts lives, relationships, careers and for some can be as debilitating as a physical illness.  SAD is just as bad as depression. The only difference is SAD is a version of depression that happens at a specific time of year.

 "You're still showing up at work on time every day, so you must be fine".
A lot of people find Putting on a smile and acting cheerful and happy can be what they are best at. There are no external symptoms and most people would say that they would never think they suffered from any mental health problems but just because it doesn't show and because they are functioning it doesn't mean SAD isn't real or should be ignored.

"There is no cure you just have to ride it out"
SAD is treatable and can be managed and you can do numerous things to lessen the severity of symptoms which can range from talking about their feelings, staying active, keeping a gratitude journal, mindfulness, using light boxes and seeking help from a doctor.

When to see your GP
You should consider seeing your GP if you think you might have SAD and you're struggling to cope.
Your GP can carry out an assessment to check your mental health. They may ask you about your mood, lifestyle, eating habits and sleeping patterns, plus any seasonal changes in your thoughts and behaviour.
Read more about diagnosing SAD.