Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression which appears over winter, affecting about 3% of people in the UK according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.  It seems to be linked to a lower amount of sunlight, but it is not clear exactly how and why some people are affected more than others.  Some people have suggested that humans once hibernated, and this might be a cause!


SAD has many of the same symptoms as clinical depression – including persistent low mood, lethargy/sleepiness and a feeling of disconnection or lack of interest in activities you normally enjoy.  You may find you are sleeping and eating more (particularly carbohydrates), and being ill more often. It is also common to find it more difficult to think clearly or manage stress well.


If you think you have SAD, it is a good idea to see your GP in the first instance.


Your GP may offer you medication or lifestyle advice to ease symptoms.  Some people find that making sure to get as much natural sunlight as possible eases symptoms, or use daylight-simulating lightbulbs or light boxes at home.  Eating well, taking appropriate exercise and maintaining social links all seem to help.


As always, good self care can not only ease symptoms in themselves but also help you feel more in control.  It is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle but one that is often brushed aside – some people feel guilty or self-indulgent for prioritising it.  However, good self care not only helps us to feel better but it also means we are more able to help others.  Nurturing of yourself is just as important as (if not more important than) being able to nurture others!


Some people benefit from counselling to tackle SAD – if you would like to make an appointment with me for this, please contact me.


You might also seek advice from The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association or try the MoodGYM online CBT program.

Weather and mood

Walking around enjoying today’s warm sunlight, I wondered if weather has an effect on mood.  Certainly Seasonal Affective Disorder exists, but a blog on that might be more appropriate for autumn.

So does sunlight affect mood?  It seems that the jury is still out.  Some research suggests that it makes little difference, and some studies say that more sunlight leads to elevated mood (especially in people who have depression).  A short review of some of the different studies is also here.  I think it can be hard to tease out the effect weather has, because it is difficult to isolate it amongst all the other factors – such as location, economy, culture etc.

It is interesting that studies have mentioned how much it varies between people – it could be that some people are naturally affected more by weather than others.  It also appears that low levels of vitamin D (produced by exposing skin to sunlight) might be linked to depression.  I sincerely hope that everyone who does feel the benefit of sunlight, or thinks they might, has the opportunity to get some.  Cancer Research UK have tips on how to enjoy the sunshine safely.