WARNING: The Embarrassing Bodies website contains images of an explicit medical nature and nudity in a medical context.

Conditions

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Is it normal to be scared of the doctor? Vote now! >

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time of year, every year. SAD is also known as ‘winter depression’, as it is common for this kind of depression to be linked with the onset of winter. The main symptoms of SAD are a low mood, a loss of interest in everyday activities, being less active, putting on weight and sleeping more. Other symptoms include a craving for carbohydrates, not being able to concentrate and a lack of libido. Usually, the symptoms are mild in the autumn and gradually worsen as winter progresses. However, SAD does affect every person differently and can even occur in the summer months, but this is very rare.

SAD affects around 1 in 50 people in the UK, with people in their twenties being most likely to develop symptoms and with more women than men being affected. Also, between 70-80% of people have unipolar depression rather than bipolar depression. This means that the sufferer only has feelings of depression rather than feelings of depression mixed with periods of feeling happy and energetic.

The cause is not fully understood, but it is thought to be linked to the amount of sunlight you receive. Sunlight affects the hormones in the brain and can control mood. A lack of light can affect the production of melatonin, seratonin and disturbs the body clock. Lack of light can increase levels of melatonin which causes lack of energy, and decrease level of serotinin which lowers mood. Disruption to the body clock can also exacerbate depression as sleeping and waking patterns are interrupted. Other causes include genetic factors, bad childhood experiences, personality traits, psychological factors and social factors.

Treatment includes light therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and antidepressants. The benefits of light therapy are uncertain, but they are known to have positive short-term affects. Use of a light box early in the morning is seen to be the most effective and works by encouraging the brain to increase levels of seratonin to improve mood and lower levels of melatonin to increase energy. Light therapy is not advisable however if you are already suffering from epilepsy, have an eye problem or are taking certain kinds of medication. It is not necessary to stare directly at the light box and you can go about normal activities like watching TV or using a laptop whilst using it. But it is important that your body is facing the direction of light and that you are not wearing sunglasses.

Talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling have proved to be successful in treating all kinds of depression by changing the way the sufferer thinks about the situation. Antidepressants are also a way of treating SAD, but these are only usually prescribed if the symptoms are very severe. There are additionally a number of self-help steps a person living with the condition could take to ease symptoms. For example, taking regular exercise, getting out of the house, eating a well balanced diet, decorating the home in bright colours and using relaxation techniques.

What the Men in White Coats Say

Comments and Questions

Comments & Questions are now archived, but if you see anything on the site that worries you, please report it and one of our moderators will look at it as soon as possible.
Please note: Unfortunately Channel 4 cannot respond to individual inquiries. If you have any concerns, you can check out NHS Choices, but ultimately it is always best to check with a health professional.

I have self-assessed my self and I think I have SAD but im not certain. I have told one of my teachers and and my mum and they think its because im growing up. Help!!! Thanks :)





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

I have self-assessed my self and I think I have SAD but im not certain. I have told one of my teachers and and my mum and they think its because im growing up. Help!!! Thanks :)





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

I have found that I have SAD, but I'm not certain, in the winter I'd prefer to stay indoors on the laptop in my room and not socialize.I often sleep in till very late then can't sleep at night, sometimes I don't go to sleep for 2 days due to me not being tired, but in the summer when u get woken up to sun shining in my room I am eager to get up and be sociable, I'm not sure whether its to do with being a teenager or is it defently SAD, Iv spoken to my mum about it but she thinks it's just being a teenager?... I dont know what to do..





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

I'm 19 Never really noticed anything before, Until people started to mention how lively I am at the end of the college year an how I never seem to smile during the end of September. I always crave carbohydrates during winter and get really down and have moments where I sit crying for no apparent reason but doesn't everyone? It only came to my attention when my friends relative said I may suffer from SAD but I was unaware of what SAD actually was. I then researched it but now I feel like I'm self diagnosing myself and half the time people do that they're wrong and worry over nothing. Then I think back to last year and think how I was the same, the previous comments of my brother telling me I'm forever hibernating my dad questioning why I'm always tired I come home after college and go straight to sleep only waking up when my mum wakes me for my tea, even then I'm in a irritable mood feel annoyed but this may just be cause do n't like being woke up. I feel like I've never really woke up I have a lack of energy where as through the summer I would be out all the time, at the gym an go out most weekends, Now id rather stay in but I thought this was normal due to it being cold etc, I could spend days sleeping if I could, not because I want to because I find it harder to take interest in things and socializing makes me feel lonely when all my friends are in couples so I don't bother. My concentration in college is out the window too, I'm already behind on masses of work and the threats of being kicked of the course don't even motivate me I can't sit still watching a 7 minute video and Just feel myself nodding off, coffee doesn't even give the boost I need. I want to be happy I always tell people I want to be my old self the person from 2009/10 when I had all the energy in the world when I loved to go out at all times of the year, I used to love bonfire night and going out when it snowed now I don't know if its just because I've grown up are there noveltys of life I'm not sure , because at heart I'm still a big kid when it comes to right lights fish tanks and cartoons I've not a clue what to do I'm fed up of crying for no reason being over sensitI've cause sometimes I get so wound up over nothing I end up aggressive and punch things like the other day I smashed my mirror to pieces.things I hate putting on weight and I just want my life back feel as if its been took away from me I don't know what's up with me I try to b happy and Just can't someone please help me? I feel silly if I went the doctors and said all this dont want people to look at me thinking I'm messed up in the head and what not I just need to know what to do :(





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

Hi Lillian, I can totally relate to what you are feeling, and the best advice I can give you is to definitely go and speak to a doctor. Just don't be put off if they don't take you seriously, lots of them are just stuck in their ways and have not moved with the times! If this happens, get another opinion from another doctor. I have been lucky enough to finally find an incredibly supportive GP who has been very helpful. This is encouraging because it proves that they are out there! In my case, the symptoms are very similar, although pretty much all year round, and my diagnosis have veered in a different direction, but SAD is certainly an influence. I have received help in a variety of forms (talking therapies, light box, lifestyle management and anti depressants), but I have had to be very persistent to get these. Feeling the way you do now, I know how off-putting that must sound. All I can say, is that starting to try and take control of it will give you more of a sense of purpose. My problems got really out of hand when I was at Uni, and ended up totally disrupting my studies and I left without graduating. I am now 34, and still wish I had made more of an effort to deal withit back then, as it has totally affected my life now. Many colleges have councellors for students to talk through their problems with, this might be a gentle starting point for you to consider if you have this option. In the meantime, do what you can to remind yourself that there have been times when you felt happy. If you felt it before, you can feel it again! Take one day at a time. Good luck!

Hi I suffer from SAD and I am about to buy a light box but I dont know which one to choose. Any advice???





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

Maplin have a good one

I rented one for my wife and the change in her was great. We were going to send it back for the summer but after my wife spoke to the adviser, she was told that it would probably come back again this winter even though she felt better so we bought it. It's been put away all summer but my wife has started to use it again last week just to be ready for this winter!





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

ive been told that i suffer with SAD the thing i need to know is i have thoughts through the winter like im going to die if i have a headache i think ive got a brain tumor if i have a pain in my leg i thing ive got a blood clot i dont sleep in mt bed as i think that im not going to wake up and many more is this a symptom of SAD i have this from oct to feb in the summer i rarely have these thoughts and my life is normal??xx





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

Haii I'm a 15 year old girl who happens to suffer from S.A.D. My parents brought me a sun lamp for my room and it works really well- it must be as my teachers are complaining that I am to loud and noisy :) The only reason we knew that I suffered from this particulaur disorder it that all during the winter I had no energy and it got so bad that I was self harming due to everything upseting me. I have stopped it now but I just want to say to anyone who is finding it differcult there are many people like you like me and it gets easier trust me, I should know. :) XX





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

Reverse SAD (depression in Summer) does exist but it's so hard to get anyone to take it seriously. Info on this site even suggests that it's just normal depression - but for me, as soon as temperatures start to rise, I start to show similar symptoms to people with Winter SAD. Looking around the internet I've found some reference to heat affecting the hypothalamus and thyroid and therefore hormone production, but there's little advice on what to do about it. Does anyone have a similar experience and know of any way to treat it?





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

!st April programme, regarding insects abroad. you said that the deer tick found in USA can get to you in the waters, well i thought i would also imform you that a american friend of mine, did in fact get the deer tick bite from playing golf in New Jersey, and was told you can get this where ever you find Deer's as these insects are manly found on Deer's. It took a year for him to get any symtoms, and it it very important to get it checked out as soon as possible, due to the 4 stages of the illness, which can become very bad to humans and leave you with permenant damage





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines


Important Notice

The information provided on this website (including any NHS Choices medical information) is for use as information or for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. We do not warrant that any information included within this site will meet your health or medical requirements. This Embarrassing Bodies site does not provide any medical or diagnostic services so you should always check with a health professional if you have any concerns about your health.


If you want to embed our videos in your site, read our embedding T&Cs here


More Information

  1. Bodies Behaving Badly

    In Episodes - Episode 1 of Embarrassing Teenage Bodies examines conditions includ…

  2. Consultation: Prostate Cancer

    In Videos - Dr Jessen treats a patient whose Prostate Cancer has worsened in re…

  3. Consultation: Second Adult Circumcision

    In Videos - Dr Jessen examines a patient in need of a new circumcision

  4. Consultation: Soreness on the Penis

    In Videos - A patient is examined for soreness around his penis

  5. Consultation: Gynaecomastia

    In Videos - Dr Jessen treats a man who's rapid weight loss has left him with fo…

  6. Consultation: Acne Scarring

    In Videos - A patient comes to see Dr Harper about treatment for the scarring c…

  7. Consultation: Acne Keloidalis

    In Videos - A patient receives treatment for the disfiguring condition Acne Kel…

  8. Consultation: Painful Penis

    In Videos - Dr Jessen treats a patient whose pleasures in life have been severe…

  9. Consultation: Vaginal Prolapse

    In Videos - Dr Harper examines a woman who has suffered a prolapsed vagina afte…

  10. Consultation: Enlarged Labia

    In Videos - A woman comes to see Dr McKenna about her enlarged labia.

  11. How To Check Your Testicles

    In Videos - Dr Harper's guide to how to self-check your balls against testicula…

  12. Consultation: Breast Reduction

    In Videos - A patient comes to see Dr Harper with enormous 36JJ Breasts that ar…

  13. How To Check Your Breasts

    In Videos - Dr Dawn Harper explains how to self check your boobs for breast can…

  14. Quick Health Advice: Moles

    In Videos - Dr Jessen advises on the kind of mole you should be looking out for…

  15. Quick Health Advice: Acne

    In Videos - Dr Pixie McKenna provides some information on the causes of acne, z…


More Information

Content supplied by NHS Choices

As seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression, its symptoms tend to be similar to those of depression. However, unlike non-seasonal depression, the symptoms of SAD occur on a seasonal basis. Read More »

Am I Normal?

Share, explore, vote, watch… Am I Normal? is a bold new Channel 4 project that will redefine what you think of as ‘normal’.

Visit Am I Normal? >