What is SAD? (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Person sat at a dining table looking upset

SAD is defined as a disorder characterised by seasonal patterns of recurrent major depressive disorders.  

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) currently recommends that Seasonal Affective Disorder be treated the same as depression. As implied by the name, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a recurring disorder that appears mainly during the autumn and winter months. For some, SAD can be a debilitating disorder, while others can experience mild symptoms.

Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder

The exact cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder remains largely unknown, however, there are a few possible explanations which include:

  • A lack of natural sunlight during the winter has been shown to affect our circadian rhythm. This is our bodies 24-hour internal clock, which is generally aligned and responds accurately to changes in light and darkness.
  • A drop in your Serotonin and Melatonin Levels. Serotonin is a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) which plays a part in regulating our mood. If there’s a drop in our serotonin levels, this may lead to experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms. This is a similar case with melatonin, a hormone that our brain produces in response to darkness and helps regulate our circadian rhythm.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Due to their psychological nature, mental health problems such as SAD are often invisible to the naked eye. The symptoms associated with SAD are very similar to those of depression, and most people will experience these symptoms at a particular time each year. Some common signs to look out for are:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Constant lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
  • Sleeping problems (oversleeping or struggle sleeping)

Ways to deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Increase the light around you: The winter months can be difficult. You might wake up when it’s dark, and by the time you return from work or classes, it’s dark again. This constant state of darkness can be unsettling. To prevent this, you should try to maximise the natural light in your day-to-day life where possible.

Self-care: Self-care can help you make peace with negative emotions when they arise. It can also help cultivate feelings of self-compassion and release tension in the body.

Prioritise your social life: It is necessary to keep on top of your workload and/or coursework and perform to the best of your ability. It is also equally as important to keep on top of your social life. Your friends and family play a vital role in protecting your mental health, helping you achieve a feeling of belonging and purpose.

Physical wellbeing: Make sure you’re eating nutritious foods, regularly exercising and getting enough sleep.

Seek support: If you feel like the above techniques aren’t working for you (and you feel ready to do so), you should consider speaking to a mental health professional. Here at Step One Charity, we offer a wide range of free courses, workshops and peer support groups to help you manage your own wellbeing, enabling you to live your life more independently.

Along with being kind to ourselves and keeping tabs on our own mental wellbeing, it’s also important to look out for those around us. Our Mental Health First Aid Training is designed for both employers and employees and can support your organisation to encourage more open conversation and greater understanding of mental health, how to spot the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and how to signpost people to access the support they need.

Related articles

The power of movement for mental wellbeing

The power of movement for mental wellbeing, by Dr. Lindsay Jones

Dr. Lindsay Jones, Clinical Psychologist here at Step One, explores 6 ways in which movement and exercise can enhance our mental wellbeing.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2024

How you can get involved with Mental Health Awareness Week 2024

The theme of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health'. We have a jam-packed schedule of events designed to get you moving, connecting with others, and feeling your best.
Becky, Fundraising Officer

Fundraising for Step One: Your questions answered by Becky – Part 1

Meet Becky, our Fundraising Officer here at Step One Charity. Fundraising is at the core of Step One - the funds we receive allow us to continue to support the people of Devon with their mental health and wellbeing through our vital services.

Step One Charity unveils fresh new look to reflect commitment to wellbeing across Devon

Introducing Step One Charity's refreshed brand identity to better reflect our mission of supporting individuals with mental health challenges, learning disabilities, and neurodiversity across Devon.

A brighter path to wellbeing: Introducing Step One Charity’s new brand

Discover Step One's refreshed look and learn how you can support our mission!
Person skydiving

Skydive for Step One Charity in 2024!

Take your fundraising to new heights by taking on our skydive challenge with Skydive Buzz! Jump for free when you raise £395 for Step One Charity.
Photo of woman smiling and a quote that reads: My favourite thing about being a support worker is making a difference to people’s lives. Giving people the help and support that I wish my mum and nan could have had.

Celebrating 10 years of Charlotte, Support Worker at Cypress Hospital

Driven by a deep personal connection to the cause, Charlotte has dedicated her career to making a positive difference in the lives of others. In this short Q&A, we delve into Charlotte’s journey with Step One Charity.
Person signing their name on an official document.

Make a Will Week: Top tips for writing your Will

Have you thought about writing your will but you’re not sure where to start? Often the process can simply be broken down into four practical questions which form the basis of any will.
Three people embracing eachother and smiling, surrounded by Christmas inspired DIY crafts.

How your donations can make a Difference This Christmas

Donations during the festive season allow us to continue supporting adults over 18 in Devon to manage their mental health, achieve employment goals and live more independently.
©️ Copyright 2024 – Step One. Registered Charity Number: 235434 Company Number 393477 in England. X Centre, Commercial Road, Exeter, EX2 4AD. Web Design by The Ambitions Agency