Seasonal Affective Disorder and How to Deal With It

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a depression associated with late autumn and winter and is thought to be caused by a lack of light. Symptoms of SAD can include:

• a persistent low mood
• a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
• irritability
• feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
• feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
• sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
• craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

For some people, these symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities.

Unfortunately, simply moving closer to the equator or spending the entire winter in sunnier places is not really an option for most of those affected! The Royal College of Psychiatrists strongly recommends seeking as much exposure to natural light as possible. Our brains have not caught up with our contemporary lifestyles of working inside an office all day long, so something as small as a morning walk and taking a lunch break outdoors can make a difference. Furthermore, a healthy diet and exercise to raise the heart rate can help to reduce the symptoms of SAD.

There is also some evidence that cognitive behavioural therapy, a treatment for anxiety and depression in general, can help winter depression and may prevent it recurring in future years. Of course, the first step really is to recognise you are affected. The combination of treatments and preventive measures best for tackling your symptoms will be highly individual and should be discussed with your doctor.

Whether you’re struck down by “winter blues” or SAD, the most important thing to remember is this: you don’t have to wait for winter to pass to start feeling better!

By Sue Washington

Sue Washington has dedicated her life to helping people.  From early days as a school teacher she trained psychotherapists to an exacting National standard with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).  Her thrust in her later years has been to help people realise their power. There is a free download to help you unload problems at Also you can ask her a question directly on 01772 617663 or at

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