The causes and symptoms of SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD
on Thu 12 Dec


SAD stands for “Seasonal Affective Disorder” and seems to affect about 3% of the population at a time when the days are shorter and we are less inclined to go outside because of colder and wetter  weather.


It is three times more common in women than men, with men and children experiencing the condition in equal numbers.


It is thought that SAD is caused by less light and shorter daylight hours in the winter which seems to trigger a biochemical imbalance in the brain. Some believe that, as the seasons change there is a   shift in your circadian rhythm which causes you to be out of step with your usual daily life.


There has been a lot of research in terms of how daylight can influence appetite, wakefulness and mood. Indeed some airlines are currently experimenting some airlines are currently experimenting with adjusting light levels to be in step with destination countries in order to reduce the risk of jet lag on increasingly longer flights. 


What are the symptoms of SAD?    

Those suffering from SAD often feel tired even though they have increased sleeping hours and frequently put weight on due to craving carbohydrates and generally overeating.

They may also experience, sadness, anxiety, irritability, low self-esteem and trouble concentrating. Restless activity can increase but movements and speech can slow and there may be a negative effect on your libido.  In severe cases people will feel suicidal


How to treat SAD

Symptoms will generally improve as the seasons change from winter to spring but the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that SAD should be treated in the same way as other types of depression. Here is the guidance. 


There are three main forms of treatment that can help and your GP can advise which may work best for you. These are:

  1. Light therapy - sitting in front of a bright light emitting  light therapy box  for about 20 minutes a day – usually in the morning
  2. Counselling
  3. Anti-depressants

Many people believe that taking Vitamin D can also help SAD,  but there have been mixed results from studies as to whether this actually works and we do know that SAD is actually a complex illness which is not solely explained by the lack of Vitamin D.


How else can you help yourself?

Try to do more exercise. If it is too cold to go outside exercise near a window so you still get some light but wrapping up and getting some fresh air is the ideal scenario. I have mentioned before three helpful programmes which are easily accessible online such as:

Coach to 5k 

The 10,000 step challenge

and Gym free workouts


You might find journaling useful, this is writing down your thoughts, experiences and feelings. Effectively it is “having a relationship with your mind” (Natalie Goldberg). There is a lot of information on the approach to journaling and its positive effects on mental health just here.


I hope this has been helpful.



We make every effort to ensure that all health advice on this website is accurate and up to date. However it is for information purposes and should not replace a visit to your doctor or health care professional. As the advice is general in nature rather than specific to individuals we cannot accept any liability for actions arising from its use nor can we be held responsible for the content of any pages referenced by an external link.




About Stephanie Acne Age-related Macular Degeneration AIDS alcohol units and effects allergies Andropause angina anorexia Anti Ageing Anxiety arrhythmia arthritis asthma atrial fibrillation back pain basic metabolic rate BHRT bio-identical hormones Biog Bloating blood pressure BMR bone density Book review bowel cancer brain fog brain tumour Bronchitis bulimia Bursitis calcium Cancer cancer signs and symptoms carpal tunnel syndromw cervical cancer Cervical smear Charles Bonnet Syndrome check your pulse cholesterol chronic fatigue syndrome coeliac disease cold virus contraception COPD coronary thrombosis coronavirus covid-19 Deep vein thrombosis dehydration signs Delaying menopause Dementia Depression dermatitis Diabetes Digestive problems digital health Donor advice DVT dyspareunia Ear infections Early menopause eating disorders eczema endometriosis exercise fertility fibroids fitness flu gallstones Gardisil Genetic testing government health policy hair loss hayfever Health Awareness Day Health Awareness Month Health Awareness week health warning healthy eating heart attack heart attacks Heart Disease Helpful supplements Hepatitis High blood pressure HIV Hives Hormone Replacement Therapy hormones hot flushes HPV HRT HRT & breast cancer HRT in the news HRT risks hydration benefits Hypertension IBS immune system itching Itchy Skin joint pain kidney function Laryngitis Leukaemia libido lichen sclerosus lifestyle liver Liver Disease Long Covid Symptoms lowered immmunity Lung cancer Lupus LUTS Macular Degeneration Magnesium# Male Menopause Managing Anxiety Managing Stress ME/CFS Men's health Meningitis Menoapuse advice for partners menopause menopause and dental health Menopause Specialist menopause symptoms Menopause Weight Gain menpause Menstrual Cycle Menstruation Menstruation and Athletes mental health Mental health support metabolism microbiome Migraine Migraines Motivation technique mouth cancer night sweats Norovirus oestrogen osteoarthritis Osteoporosis Paget's disease painful sex palpitations Pancreatic Cancer Parkinson's Parkinsons pelvic pain Perimenopause perimenopause and breast pain Pneumonia POI post menopause vocal syndrome Premature Ovarian Insufficiency Probiotics Prolapse prostate prostate cancer Pruritis Psoriasis Psychosexual medicine reflux rheumatoid arthritis Rosacea sarcoma self harming sex sex and disability sexual health Shingles Sinusitis skin cancer Skin health sleep Statins Staying positive STI's Strep A Strep throat stroke Takayasu Arteritis talks and presentations TB testosterone Tinnitus trying to lose weight tuberculosis Type 2 Diabetes underactive thyroid Urinary Infections Urinary Tract Infection Using a private GP UTI's vaginal dryness Vascular awareness month vegan diets Vitamin D Vulval itching Winter Vomiting Bug women's health World Health Day

Email enquiry form

How To Find Us

25 Harley Street, London W1G 9QW

Newsletter Signup

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.


We use MailChimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to MailChimp for processing. Learn more about MailChimp's privacy practices here.