Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a type of depression that affects you at different times of the year – the most common seasons for people to experience this is Autumn and Winter. The shorter days, cooler temperatures and poorer weather conditions can trigger symptoms of depression that you otherwise wouldn’t normally experience.

Symptoms:

  • Low energy
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate
  • Not wanting to socialise
  • Feeling tearful, guilty or hopeless.
  • Feeling irritable and angry
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in your appetite
  • Losing interest in sex or physical contact
  • Suicidal thoughts

The winter months inevitably bring a lack of sunlight which is a key source of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Although vitamin D supplements haven’t been proven to have an impact on the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, it is important to maintain your physical health all year round as poor physical health can negatively affect your emotional health.

People often report feeling increased levels of tiredness during the autumn and winter months – this isn’t a direct consequence of experiencing symptoms of depression, it is a hormonal reaction to the lack of daylight. Melatonin is a hormone that the brain produces in response to darkness, it occurs naturally in the body. It helps with the timing of your circadian rhythm (your internal body clock) and with sleep. The reason you can experience feeling tired earlier during the winter is because it begins to go dark and triggers the production of melatonin earlier than the summer months – therefore you body response naturally by preparing for sleep.

What can you do to help yourself?

Make the most of natural light – It is important to spend some time each day in the natural light, whether that is taking a coffee outside on your break at work or spending time in public gardens or local parks it will helpful your energy levels throughout the day.

Plan ahead where possible – If you feel you are likely to experience low energy throughout winter, try making meals in advance and freeze them so you have something easy to prepare and your diet doesn’t suffer as a consequence.

Take time to relax – this could be as simple as getting an early night, reading a book or doing some baking. It will be personal to you depending what it is that you find relaxing.

Incorporate exercise into your routine – Any kind of exercise can be beneficial to your emotional health through the production of endorphins, otherwise known as the happy hormone. Whether you incorporate a swim, walk, jog or yoga class into your day, the affect will be positive.

Limit your alcohol intake – alcohol is a depressant, therefore if you are struggling with low mood during a particular season alcohol can make it feel worse. Try and limit your drinking to social occasions and avoid using it as a way of trying to make yourself feel better.

If you are finding your symptoms of depression particularly difficult or overwhelming there is help and support available to you. You may find helplines useful as they provide an opportunity to talk to someone in confidence in the comfort of your own home. Call Mind’s Infoline on 0300 123 3393. If you would prefer not to speak on the phone you can text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258. A course of counselling can be a great way to help you manage your symptoms and improve your mental health to reduce the impact the cooler months have, for more information contact us by emailing

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can make an emergency appointment with your GP, call 111 or contact Samaritans on 116123. If you feel that you are in immediate danger, call 999.

Billie Pursglove

Billie Pursglove

Owner of Energy Psychotherapy and BACP Registered Member.