Changing your mood with the weather – Seasonal Affective Disorder

With the sun shining, days getting longer and temperatures rising, it’s hard not to suddenly see the world as a brighter place.

But while a lift in mood may be down to Easter excitement (or Royal Wedding fever!), for almost a quarter of us it could be a sign of something more underlying.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a very real condition that affects an estimated 24% of the UK population to some degree.

According to the SAD Association, the condition is caused by ‘a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter’.

The long list of symptoms range from depression, anxiety and fatigue to loss of libido and weight gain.

SAD can also result in a weaker winter immune system – but it’s important to note that due to an increase in Vitamin D we are perhaps all healthier in the summer months.

For 17% of us these ‘winter blues’ may just be mildly discomforting, but for a further 7% of sufferers the symptoms can be so severe that SAD becomes debilitating.

It is at this time of year (March/April) that sufferers will notice either a sudden or gradual positive shift in their mood, often characterised by a short period of hyperactivity.


As an alternative to traditional medications, many SAD sufferers are finding solace in phototherapy – a process in which they are exposed to bright artificial light for a prescribed period of time.

Interestingly this same therapy is used to treat conditions such as psoriasis, acne and eczema.

Before you go putting your rainy day gloom down to SAD, you have to exhibit symptoms for three consecutive winters before a conclusive diagnosis can be made.

Traditionally, SAD has been prevalent in notoriously bad-weathered countries like the dear old UK, and is relatively unheard of among those living within 30 degrees of the Equator.

However, if the sun stays shining like this then forget the Caribbean – summer in Blighty’s going to be a happy one!


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