Seasonal Affective Disorder: Serious Illness or Overanalysed Winter Blues?


I must start this article by admitting when I was younger the doctor diagnosed me with S.A.D. My mother brought me a lightbulb that was supposed to help- as far as I can see it didn’t do anything. It turns out I wasn’t actually depressed, and so began my distaste for doctors who feel the need to label everything.

The symptoms of S.A.D are down to a chemical imbalance in the brain brought on by lack of daylight; hence why it is prevalent in the winter. Symptoms include: low mood, fatigue, irritability, over eating and a need to sleep more. I do not undermine the feeling of anyone with depression, but I feel like many of these symptoms are pretty common for many people in winter. Only the other day I was walking through Portswood and being hit in the face by mist, with looming clouds and rain that seemed to hang in the air. At the end of this particularly grey day, I spoke to my housemates and they were all slightly depressed by the weather, didn’t want to get out of bed and were practically eating the whole house. I think these symptoms may be even more common in students: long days, bad diets, homesickness and rainy, rapey, Portswood can be enough to turn a good day bad.

However, what do we do? We suck it up, put a smile on our faces and get on with it- a typically British attitude to British weather. Maybe this is why we like talking about weather so much. It is also undeniable that when the sun shines in Spring, everyone strips off, heads outside and tries to get a tan. This being said I feel like S.A.D can give people an excuse to mope, and keep them stuck in misery mode. How about if we just accepted that the clouds were overwhelming and the darkness was looming, and forced ourselves to think: “So what. I’m still going to have a bloody good day”. That is what I will be doing this winter.

(I would just like to re iterate this article is not aimed at people suffering from serious depression).


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Discussion13 Comments

  1. avatar

    People with mental illness don’t have the strength to ‘suck it up’. Have some respect.

    Katy Flint

    Very true Cerys.

    If anything, I think I have the utmost respect for people with mental illness. Suggesting that the winter blues should not be categorised or defined along with those who have depression.


    That’s good to know, maybe I just misunderstood! I think you’re right that people use it as an excuse.


    While I agree with your point that doctors casually label things to readily and especially with mental health, often don’t have a clue,
    it’s not as clear cut as you seem to be suggesting.

    I think you’re coming dangerously close to suggesting that people who get diagnosed with SAD are just a bit down because it’s winter. If someone is feeling low, it doesn’t matter why, they are on some level depressed. The winter blues, just like the baby blues, are both examples of depression, which isn’t ever something that you should be told to “pull yourself out of”.

    Most people feel a bit blue when it’s dark and raining, I take your point, but your comment about pulling yourself together and not letting it bother you seems quite insensitive given the delicate nature of the topic.


    Obviously this article is not an in depth psycho analysis of depression. It is a short opinion piece on how the weather can get you down- regardless of whether you have S.A.D.

    I think nowadays everyone is all too quick to be offended when no offense was intended. We need to start talking about mental illnesses rather than treading carefully around them.

    I have quite extreme views on depression, having lived with it in my family, and I do believe that sometimes it is down to individual personality, brain processes and thoughts that aren’t conducive to mental well being. This of course, is my opinion. I acknowledge that there are different types of depression and chemical imbalances in the brain that people cannot ‘pull themselves out of’.

    I also was not suggesting that people with mental illnesses should ‘pull themselves out’, you have taken a phrase from one sentence and applied it to a different one, reading into it what you wanted.

  2. avatar
    Katy Flint

    Chris, you misunderstood my point, I am not suggesting people with mental illnesses ‘suck it up’. I am suggesting people do not let the British winter affect their day.

  3. avatar

    My Nan suffers from specifically S.A.D., not depression as it does only occur in Winter. However the idea that its simply “winter blues” and not much more is a little absurd, as her depression during winter can be very extreme, bordering suicidal on a “bad year”. Im not saying this for dramatic effect, its simply the truth. Whilst I can imagine some are misdiagnosed, I would be very wary of any claims S.A.D. is nothing more than “Winter Blues”. For some people, its certainly a lot worse than that.


    Hi Ben,

    I am sorry that your nan is unwell, it must be very hard to deal with.

    There are obviously differences between those who suffer from severe depression, and those who don’t want to get out of bed when it’s cold and rainy outside. My article was aimed at the latter.

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