SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder

November 11, 2019

What Is SAD?

SAD stands for seasonal affective disorder. This means that it is a type of depression that typically follows the change of seasons. Indeed, suffers typically get a lot more depressed in winter than at other times of the year. For people affected it can be quite debilitating. It is estimated that approximately 3% of the UK population suffer it. However, the number could be a lot higher as thousands of people won't report symptoms. Many people either try to self manage the condition or suffer symptoms in silence. Furthermore, a subset of individuals will suffer milder symptoms which might be referred to as the 'winter blues' or 'subsyndromal SAD'. Therefore, SAD can be seen as a spectrum disorder.


The good news is that there are things that can be done to combat the symptoms helping you to overcome the dread of winter. Here at Beds On Legs we've done our research to bring you the latest on this condition.

What Causes SAD?

Whilst there is no definitive answer as to what causes SAD, there are a few possible causes. However, one of the most widely accepted causes is the lack of light. This makes sense as most people who experience this condition start to suffer symptoms as the days grow shorter. The main theory as to why lack of light is a a culprit is that it affects the hypothalamus. This controls a number of functions in the body. Indeed, this includes the production of melatonin, serotonin and the body's internal clock. Melatonin makes us feel sleepy. Serotonin affects mood and appetite. Last but not least your body clock determines your wake and sleep cycle. Any of these factors can affect the onset on SAD.

What Are The Symptoms Of SAD?

The symptoms of this disorder are wide ranging. They include the following. However, this list is not exhaustive and you may suffer symptoms not on this list:-

  • Lack of energy

  • Diminished appetite

  • Wanting to isolate yourself from others

  • Difficulties concentrating

  • Lack of interest in sex and other physical contact

  • Lack of motivation

  • Changes in appetite

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • In extreme cases, suicidal feelings

Possible Treatments

Light Therapy

A number of people find that light therapy is helpful. If possible the ideal way is to get as much natural sunlight as possible. For example you could take a stroll outside in your lunch break. However, this alone might be insufficient or perhaps not possible. Therefore, it might be worth trying a light box. These light boxes emit white or blue light that stimulate natural daylight. If you work at a desk then you could try using one as you work.


If you approach your doctor with this condition then you might be prescribed an antidepressant. Indeed, the most commonly antidepressants typically offered are serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Without a doubt some people find that this medication offers them the life line they need.

Talking Therapies

There are many different types of talking therapies available. These include counselling and CBT. You can access these through the NHS or privately. For more information on talking therapies you can visit MIND here.

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