What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder? - The GP Service
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What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder


What Is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D) also referred to by some as winter depression.

The condition is triggered by the lack of sunlight in winter. The lack of sunlight is thought to stop the hypothalamus section of the brain, from working properly, which affects the levels of hormones (melatonin and serotonin) and the bodies natural circadian rhythms. This is the part of the brain controlling mood, sleep and appetite, which is why these are all affected by SAD.

Approximately 20% of the UK suffers from SAD but most people will have a mild form of the condition, known as ‘Winter Blues’. Some sufferers describe the condition as having a desire to ‘hibernate’.



  • Persistent Low Mood/Depression
  • Loss of Interest in Usual Hobbies and Activities
  • Feelings of Despair or Worthlessness
  • Feeling Lethargic or Having No Energy
  • Eating More Than Usual – Craving Carbohydrates.
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Loss of Libido


Are There Things You Can Do?

The Royal College of Psychiatrists suggest getting as much exposure to natural light as possible. Many people choose to invest in a SAD therapy light box, which simulates the natural sun light in order to get the hormones working as they should. Other options are serotonin boosting tablets that are said to balance out the hormones and have a positive impact on mood, sleep and eating habits. In more severe cases anti-depressants may be prescribed, or therapy and counselling may be suggested.