Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD,

A guide to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) | Symptoms and Causes

What is seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that a person can experience at certain times of the year (most likely as seasons change). Many people with SAD find that their depressive symptoms begin in the autumn, and then continue into the dark and cold months of winter, as the lack of natural daylight causes fatigue and low mood. Most people with SAD find that their symptoms are better or disappear entirely during the months of spring and summer, when the days are longer and there is more natural daylight.

Many symptoms of SAD revolve around the autumn and winter months, although some people can find they experience depression and SAD symptoms in the spring and summer months, too, although this is more rare. Treatments for SAD include psychotherapy, medications, supplements and light therapy (phototherapy). While it's common for many people to feel more sluggish and less motivated during the winter months, if low mood is causing a problem for everyday life and preventing a person from doing everyday activities, including sleep and eating habits, depression may be a cause. In this case, it's important to speak to a doctor.

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder

Normal depression and SAD have many symptoms in common, but SAD symptoms typically start in autumn and progress through winter, until they start to improve in spring. The severity of SAD symptoms can vary from person to person. Indications of SAD include:

  • A low mood that is continuous or for very persistent periods
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities that are usually enjoyed
  • Irritable mood
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt or despair
  • Stress
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low libido
  • Feeling tense and anxious
  • Feeling less sociable
  • Manic episodes (in severe cases)
  • Lethargy
  • Insomnia and difficulty in falling asleep
  • Lack of concentration
  • Craving unhealthy and carbohydrate foods