Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that you experience during particular seasons or times of year. Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.
If you have SAD, you'll experience depression during some seasons in particular, or because of certain types of weather.
It's common to be affected by changing seasons and weather, or to have times of year when you feel more or less comfortable. For example, you might find that your mood or energy levels drop when it gets colder or warmer, or notice changes in your sleeping or eating patterns.
But if your feelings are interfering with your day to day life, it could be a sign that you have depression – and if they keep coming back at the same time of year, doctors might call this seasonal affective disorder or 'seasonal depression'.
How you might feel
· lack of energy
· finding it hard to concentrate
· feeling sad, low, tearful, guilty or hopeless, empty and numb
· not wanting to see people
· finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy
· lack of self-confidence or self-esteem
· sleep problems, such as sleeping more or less than usual, difficulty waking up, or difficulty falling or staying asleep
· changes in appetite, for example feeling hungrier or wanting more snacks
· losing interest in sex or physical contact
· feeling restless, agitated or irritable
· suicidal feelings
Here are some comments from SAD sufferers:
"It's like having your own portable black cloud."
"I had constant low mood, hopelessness, frustration with myself, feeling like I could cry at any moment."
"I just can't stay awake and the thought of having to go out, stay awake, make conversation. I just can't do it."
"It felt like I was really tired, all the time. I had no energy or emotion about anything."
"When winter comes and I feel the change in the seasons, I feel more drained and find it very hard to motivate myself into getting dressed or out of bed."
The exact causes of SAD are complex and not fully clear, but there seems to be a link, amongst other things, to altered levels of light and changes in weather and temperature.
If symptoms of SAD are substantially affecting your life, don’t feel you have to suffer alone – there are plenty of sources of help. Visit your GP, connect with support organisations such as MIND. There are a number of treatments that may be appropriate for you, including cognitive behavioural therapy, antidepressants and light therapy and there are also various self-care measures which may help.
Some suggestions for self-care for SAD during winter include:
Make the most of natural light. It might help to spend time in natural light, for example going for walks, spending time in parks or gardens, or simply sitting near a window.
Plan ahead for winter. For example, try to make meals in advance and freeze them if you know you are likely to lack the energy to do this during the most difficult period.
Talk to someone. It can be hard to reach out when you're not feeling well, but it might help to share how you're feeling. If you don't feel you can talk to the people around you or you need additional support, you could contact a helpline.
Learn some relaxation techniques such as meditation or mindfulness.
Exercise regularly, and get out into the fresh air.
Get enough sleep
Eat a healthy diet
Samaritans 116123 (free from any phone)
SANEline - 0300 304 7000
Campaign against Living Miserably (CALM) support for anyone who identifies as male - 0800 58 58 58
Mind Infoline: 0300 123 3393