What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder and What Are Its Symptoms?

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that affects some people during a specific time of the year, usually in winter.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder and What Are Its Symptoms?

Last update: 11 November, 2019

There are different types of depression that affect children, adolescents, and adults. One of them is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

What is this disorder and why do people suffer from it? What treatments are most effective in reducing the negative effects of this condition? In this article, we’ll provide all the answers to these and other questions.

What is seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that affects some people, and which makes them feel very dispirited and listless. Even the activities they usually like no longer satisfy them. However, this only happens at a specific time of the year, and that’s why it’s also known as seasonal affective disorder.

People who feel this way usually suffer the same symptoms of depression. However, it only appears in the winter, and usually disappears with the arrival of spring and summer.

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder

Here are some of the signs that you or a close relative, such as your partner or child, may be suffering from SAD:

Little energy

Sufferers have little or no energy to do anything. This is why they feel sleepy, lethargic and tired all day, despite having done absolutely nothing.

Increased sensitivity

Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to understand people who suffer from SAD, because they have frequent mood swings. They feel discouraged and useless, and think that nobody cares. In addition to this, they also get easily irritated. If someone says or does something to them, even as a joke, they can easily get angry.

Eating disorders

Another symptom that you may experience if you suffer from this condition is some type of eating disorder. There are two ways this can manifest itself.

The anxiety you feel can drive you to eat more food than you normally would, because you think it will give you more energy. Or, conversely, the depression can take away your desire to eat.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder and What Are Its Symptoms?

Lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy

Activities that you love, and that you take part in quite normally most of the year, suddenly hold no interest for you. You feel that they no longer satisfy you as they did before and you just don’t enjoy them.

In addition to that, you can even feel guilty, but you don’t really understand why. However, when winter ends, you start to appreciate those very same activities again.


It’s likely that you’ll no longer feel like going out, even when your close friends invite you. This disorder makes you want to be alone, because you think that nobody wants to be with you and that you can’t make anyone happy. At the same time, the confinement frustrates you, because you’re not achieving anything at all at home.

Lack of concentration

Your work may also be affected. If your children are suffering from it, then their school work will suffer.

The lack of motivation this condition creates will make it harder for sufferers to get out of bed, and they’ll often be late for their commitments or perhaps won’t even turn up. And, even if they do make every effort to attend, they’ll find it very difficult to stay focused.

Why do some people suffer from SAD?

Some people have said that the main cause of seasonal affective disorder must be the darkness and lack of sunlight, as its symptoms appear when winter arrives, and when the days are shorter. However, if that were the case, then why are only a small percentage of people who live in cold areas affected? The answer to this question is still unclear.

However, apart from these possible seasonal factors, there is also a potential hormone factor that may have a part to play in all of this. The two hormones in question are serotonin and melatonin and they can be found in our brains.

These hormones are responsible for normalizing our sleep cycles, mood and energy. If they’re not working well, then this will cause all the uncontrollable symptoms mentioned above.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder and What Are Its Symptoms?


The most important thing to do is to follow the advice of a doctor. In addition to this, it has been proven that when someone travels to a place where there is more sunlight, then the symptoms disappear.

So, if this happens to you, then try to spend as much time as you can exposed to natural sunlight. Taking time to have a daily walk is a positive step in this regard.

If this is difficult to fit in with your daily routine, then you can also receive therapy by using special light therapy boxes. Simply place it on a table, sit down and look sideways at it for around 45 minutes a day. However, you must do this under medical supervision.

In conclusion, if you or a family member is showing all the symptoms mentioned above, then the first step is to go to your doctor, as you could well be suffering from seasonal affective disorder.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.