Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

We have all heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as SAD), or ‘winter depression’ and may think that sufferers just don’t like going outside on a cold grey day. But Seasonal Affective Disorder is much more complicated than that.

We all know someone who seems to be a bit down during the winter months or has no interest in joining social activities that they would enjoy at any other time of the year. Although symptoms are usually more severe during winter months, SAD can occur at any time of year. According to the mental health charity MIND, SAD is a “type of depression that you experience during particular seasons or times of year.”

What are the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Because SAD is a type of depression, the symptoms are the same. However, the main difference is that they happen every year at roughly the same time. Typically, symptoms start to appear in the autumn or early winter and improve once spring arrives. Signs that you, a friend, or colleague may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder are:

The severity of SAD symptoms can vary greatly from one person to another. For some people, the effect on their daily lives is minimal, whilst others experience a significant impact on normal everyday activities.

In addition to the signs of depression, some SAD sufferers may experience:

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Although the exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, it is believed to be the reduced levels of exposure to sunlight during the winter months. It is thought that this lack of sunlight may stop the hypothalamus in the brain from working properly resulting in a change in the production of certain hormones:

There have also been example of SAD running in families, so some people may be more genetically prone to experiencing symptoms than others.

Self-care for Seasonal Affective Disorder

There are a number of treatments available for SAD from antidepressants to cognitive behaviour therapy, and a GP may prescribe a combination of these depending on the severity of the symptoms. However, If you think you are suffering from SAD, there are certain things you can do yourself to help the condition by boosting your exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of autumn and winter, which will help to reduce the production of melatonin and increase the production of serotonin:

Seasonal Affective Disorder in the workplace

According to, up to 6% of adults have ‘recurrent major depressive episodes with seasonal pattern’. SAD is also four times as common in women than men aged 18-44 (or during their reproductive years.)  It is, therefore, highly likely that you have a work colleague or employee suffering from SAD.

The effects of having employees with SAD can mean an increase in absence levels and, therefore, a corresponding drop in productivity. Those suffering from the disorder may find it difficult to get to work on time and once there, they lack the energy levels to perform tasks to the best of their ability. This can have a knock-on effect on the rest of the team, who have to take up the extra work, which can lead to a drop in morale and a negative atmosphere caused by increasing resentment.

There are some steps you can take to make sure that employees with SAD can feel supported in the workplace.

You need to ensure your company culture is open and supportive. Having a company culture that prioritises mental wellbeing alongside physical wellbeing will take away the stigma often associated with mental health issues. Communication is key because people who feel supported in their working environment feel less anxious. Asking how people feel and actually listening to their answer encourages them to open up about their mental wellbeing, so you can understand their concerns and difficulties. SAD is a form of depression, so raising awareness of it by promoting available services can help sufferers to seek advice and help from the right sources. Although SAD only affects people seasonally, making sure your company focuses on both mental and physical health all year round will have a positive effect on your employees and your business.

More practical considerations are:

At Space2BHeard, we have a wide range of experience working for a number of different partners in Hull and the East Riding. Thanks to our NHS approved management systems and staffing structure we are able to respond quickly, safely, and effectively to our partners’ and clients’ needs. Our experienced team understand the impact of mental health issues in the workplace, on both the employee and employer. It can be challenging for businesses to offer effective support to someone who is struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder or other forms of depression, so we have developed a number of different products that can be purchased to suit the needs of companies in Hull and the East Riding. Contact us today to discuss the needs of your organisation and the options available to support mental wellbeing in the workplace.