A group of people sitting and talking on a sofa

Have I Got Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that becomes more apparent at a particular time of year, usually winter. If you think you have SAD, or any other depression or anxiety conditions, please know that there is support available for you.

If you need to talk to someone urgently, please contact the Samaritans>

What are the signs and symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?Using a light box or SAD lamp

Individuals with SAD may experience symptoms differently from other sufferers. Seasonal depression often manifests as low mood, despair, lethargy, and changes to eating and sleeping habits. SAD can also be accompanied by a heightened sense of anxiety.

What causes me to feel depressed in winter?

You might experience depression all year round and find it gets worse over winter, or you might only feel that way through the darker months. Research is being undertaken to understand the exact cause of SAD, but it’s generally thought that less sunlight during winter is a key factor.

Is vitamin D good for the winter blues?

Natural daylight is a source of vitamin D, which helps to produce melatonin and serotonin – two hormones affect sleep, mood and appetite. The connection between reduced daylight and depression has led to the term ‘winter blues’ being used, but that shouldn’t mean SAD should be taken any less seriously than any other form of depression. It is recognized as a crippling condition in its own right.

It’s difficult to absorb enough vitamin D from your food, so Public Health England recommends taking it as a supplement during winter.

Using a lightbox or SAD lamp

Anecdotal evidence suggests that lightboxes can help the symptoms of depression in winter. Light therapy is used to emulate the light waves of natural daylight, and so can be effective in relieving symptoms.

The light therapy market is very varied! Look for those with a higher amount of lux – this indicates increased illumination. Some lamps can be adjusted to alter the colour of the light, too.

Who can help me with SAD?

Surviving the winter can seem like an exhausting prospect, so getting help with SAD is important – you don’t have to cope with yourself.

Your GP can refer you to various services such as talking therapies, or prescribe medications that can help. Your pharmacist can also talk to you about self-care techniques such as exercise, regulating sleep, and talking.