Diagnosing seasonal affective disorder 

Visit your GP if you have symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Effective treatments are available if you're diagnosed with the condition.

Your GP may carry out a psychological assessment to check your mental health. They may ask about:

  • your mood
  • your lifestyle
  • your eating and sleeping patterns
  • any seasonal changes in your thoughts and behaviour
  • whether your symptoms prevent you from carrying out normal activities
  • whether there's anything in your personal history that may contribute to a depressive disorder, such as child abuse
  • whether there's anything in your family history that may contribute to a depressive disorder, such as a family history of depression

Your GP may also carry out a brief physical examination.

Confirming SAD

SAD can be difficult to diagnose because there are many other types of depression that have similar symptoms.

It may therefore take several years before you and your GP realise that your symptoms are forming a regular pattern.

A diagnosis of SAD can usually be confirmed if:

  • your depression occurs at a similar time each year
  • the periods of depression are followed by periods without depression
  • you've had symptoms during the same time of year for two or more years in a row

Page last reviewed: 01/09/2015

Next review due: 01/09/2017