Seasonal Affective Disorders: A Guide

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Health Assured team

17 July 2023

Seasonal Affective Disorders affect roughly 2 million people in the UK, and over 12 million other people across Europe. While it’s sometimes also referred to as ‘the winter blues’, this disorder can actually affect anyone across any season, at any time of year.

Here’s what you need to know about Seasonal Affective Disorders, how to spot the symptoms, and where to find the best possible support for yourself and others.


What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also commonly known as SAD, refers to people who experience depression during specific times of year. For people who have a Seasonal Affective Disorder, particular seasons, weather, and temperatures can trigger low mood that impacts their lives.

People can experience SAD in summer or winter seasons, and the length or severity of the depression can vary for each person.


What are the Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

While all of us can potentially experience a mild change in energy levels or sleeping patterns during seasonal changes, people with SAD will find that these changes in mood and energy can affect their day-to-day life.

Below are some of the more common symptoms associated with depression and Seasonal Affective Disorders:

  • A significant drop in interest for activities and pleasures previously enjoyed
  • A constant and unshakable feeling of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Constantly having to fight back tears on a daily basis
  • A significant reduction in sex drive
  • Becoming less social
  • A constant low mood


What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

While SAD has been linked to a lack of exposure to sunlight during the autumn and winter periods, there’s no universally accepted cause for Seasonal Affective Disorder. The link to sunlight rests on a theory that reduced sunlight could potentially affect a part of the brain (the hypothalamus) which helps to regulate hormones and keep your body in a stable state.

If this theory is to be accepted, it would mean that people with SAD may experience an increased level of the sleep hormone, melatonin, as well as a potential decrease in serotonin, a hormone impacting mood and appetite, which has also been linked to depression.

Aside from this theory, it’s also possible for people to be more susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder due to their genes, as there’s also a train of thought that SAD can run in the family of sufferers.


Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatments

The treatment for SAD can range from medication and talking therapies to light boxes that increase your exposure to sunlight. In many cases, Seasonal Affective Disorder can also be treated by taking up regular exercise, being outdoors more, and looking to get more sunlight daily.


Health Assured: Wellbeing and Mental Health Support

Seasonal Affective Disorders are perfectly valid mental health and wellbeing matters that should be taken seriously. Never forget that Health Assured’s counsellors are always waiting to discuss these issues with you. Our fully confidential 24/7 helpline is readily available to you, whether you’re calling about SAD, or any other personal matter.










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