Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder 

The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are similar to those of normal depression, but they occur repetitively at a particular time of year.

They usually start in the autumn or winter and improve in the spring.

The nature and severity of SAD varies from person to person. Some people just find the condition a bit irritating, while for others it can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day life.


Most people with SAD will feel depressed during the autumn and winter.

Signs that you may be depressed include:

  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • feeling irritable
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • low self-esteem
  • tearfulness
  • feeling stressed or anxious
  • a reduced sex drive
  • becoming less sociable

A small number of people will experience these symptoms in phases that are separated by "manic" periods where they feel happy, energetic and much more sociable.

Other symptoms

In addition to symptoms of depression, you may also:

  • be less active than normal
  • feel lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • sleep for longer than normal and find it hard to get up in the morning
  • find it difficult to concentrate
  • have an increased appetite – some people have a particular craving for foods containing lots of carbohydrates and end up gaining weight as a result

These symptoms may make everyday activities increasingly difficult.

When to see your GP

You should see your GP if you think you might have SAD and you're finding it difficult to cope.

There are a number of helpful treatments your GP may be able to recommend.

Read more about diagnosing SAD and treating SAD

Page last reviewed: 01/09/2015

Next review due: 01/09/2017