Are You Feeling SAD? We Can Help!

Shutterstock / altafulla © Windy autumn days relaxing on coast feeling good;

By LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Anshu Kaura

LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Anshu Kaura

LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Anshu Kaura

1 What is SAD and what are the symptoms?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is when you regularly feel low in mood during the winter season, but recover during the summer.  Other symptoms include a loss of pleasure or interest in normal activities, feeling irritable, worthless, guilty or in despair, a lack of energy or lethargy during the day, and struggling to get up in the mornings.

Some people with SAD also crave carbohydrates and can sometimes gain weight as a result. If SAD is affecting your day-to-day life, you should talk to your GP or pharmacist about the treatment options available to help. 

2 Are there preventive measures for SAD such as diet, vitamin D supplements and SAD lamps?

Smiling beautiful middle-aged woman with a cup of hot drink on the windowsill in the garden with blooming lilac;

Pic: Shutterstock

If you experience SAD, lifestyle changes like regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, getting as much sunlight as possible (for example, trying to take at least a 20-minute walk outside every lunchtime), making your workspace light and airy and sitting near windows when you’re indoors, and reducing your stress levels may help.

You could also consider using a special lamp called a light box to stimulate exposure to sunlight, known as light therapy.

In the UK, winter sunlight from October to early March doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation for our skin to make vitamin D. So, during these months, we rely on getting vitamin D from food sources, such as oily fish, red meat and egg yolks, or from supplements, such as LloydsPharmacy Cod Liver Oil with Vitamins A&D Capsules. You should speak to your GP if you suspect you may be deficient and they can perform a simple test.

Cod liver oil and fish oil 30

3 What can a pharmacy do to help support people living with SAD?

Luckily, there are plenty of treatment options to help support people with SAD and your local pharmacist can advise you on what’s best for you. Your pharmacist can advise you on a portable light box you can buy to use at home or work, such as the Beurer TL20 SAD Lamp.

Bauer Light Box

Herbal remedies like St John’s Wort, also available at your local pharmacy, are thought to improve mood and may help those with mild to moderate symptoms but shouldn’t be used with a light box as it can make your skin more sensitive to light.

If you’re vitamin D deficient, there are a range of supplements available over-the-counter, such as LloydsPharmacy Calcium & Vitamin D Tablets.

Calcium with vitamin D

4 Are cases of SAD on the rise?

Side view of sad thoughtful middle-aged mature woman sit on couch at home look in window distance mourning, upset pensive senior female lost in thoughts thinking or pondering over past;

Pic: Shutterstock

The NHS estimates that around one in 15 people in the UK are affected by SAD between September and April, and symptoms can increase during December, January and February.

Women are four times more likely to be affected than men and are more at risk if they are between the ages of 18 and 30, and have family history of depression, bipolar disorder or SAD.




Moira Chisholm

I'm the Health Editor on My Weekly and am always interested to hear what's new in this fascinating field. I also deal with the gardening, shopping pages, general features, our website content and the Ask Helen problem page. I have a special interest in Christmas content because I'm on the team for Your Best Ever Christmas Magazine, too!