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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

A type of depression that is linked to seasonal changes and can negatively affect your day-to-day life for a prolonged period

­­Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is linked to seasonal changes. It is sometimes referred to as ‘SAD’ or ‘winter depression’ and occurs during certain times of the year.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is not simply feeling down for a few days, but rather when your emotional state negatively affects your day-to-day life for a prolonged period.

Although Seasonal Affective Disorder is predominately associated with occurring during the winter months, some people may experience it in the summer months. For example, you may find that winter is a particularly challenging season because of the combination of darker nights and reduced exposure to sunlight.

Consequently, you may discover that you are more predisposed to experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder during the summer months due to increased exposure to light, heat, and humidity.

Regardless of the time of year that you experience SAD, it tends to mirror the same symptoms as depression.


  • A persistent low mood often accompanied with anxiety
  • Not wanting to get out of bed in the morning.
  • A change in appetite such as overeating or eating less than usual
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate on everyday tasks
  • Losing interest in hobbies
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping.


While there is not one singular cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder, seasonal depression can be influenced by a few factors:

  • Exposure to reduced or heightened sunlight
  • Difficulties with the production of melatonin
  • Difficulties with the production of serotonin
  • A disrupted body clock
  • Genetics

When sunlight is in short demand during the winter this can affect the functioning of the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls body temperature and the regulation of hormones melatonin and serotonin.

A lack of sunlight can lead the body to produce higher levels of melatonin and less serotonin. The variation in these hormone levels can thus have a negative effect on the body’s internal clock.

Some people may be more predisposed to experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder due to their family genetics.

Tips for managing SAD

If you are affected with Seasonal Affective Disorder, there are various lifestyle changes that you can implement in your daily life to help manage your symptoms.

Investing in a SAD lamp, light box or gradual light alarm clock is a good way to help lift mood, inject sunlight into your day-to-day life and help the body not overproduce melatonin.

  • Light therapy has been proven to be an effective way to improve mood during the winter months.
  • Ensure that you get outside in the fresh air during the day to exercise in the fresh air. This can be as simple as going for a walk.
  • Maintain a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables.
  • Spend time with family, friends, and pets to boost mood and discuss your feelings
  • Introduce Vitamin D supplements.


If you or anyone you know requires support, our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

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