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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, manifests as a form of depression that ebbs and flows with the changing seasons.

Termed the “winter depression,” this condition tends to present more prominently and intensely during the colder months. Interestingly, a subset of individuals with SAD may experience symptoms during the summertime but find relief and improvement as winter arrives.

If you or someone you know is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and you feel you need someone to talk to. Please contact our helpline on 0808 115 1505 for confidential support.

Symptoms of SAD

Symptoms of SAD can include:

  • A persistent low mood
  • Diminished enjoyment or engagement in routine activities
  • Increased irritability
  • Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, self-blame, and insignificance
  • Persistent lethargy and daytime drowsiness
  • Prolonged sleep duration and difficulty waking up early
  • Heightened desire for carbohydrates leading to weight gain
  • Trouble focusing
  • Reduced libido

Treatment Options


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) operates on the premise that our thoughts, emotions, physical experiences, and behaviours are closely intertwined. By recognizing the influence of negative thoughts and emotions, CBT endeavours to liberate individuals from the clutches of detrimental cycles. Through a systematic approach, CBT empowers individuals to confront overwhelming challenges in a more constructive manner by breaking them into manageable fragments. The objective lies in transforming these negative patterns to instigate a positive shift in emotional well-being. What sets CBT apart from some other therapeutic methods is its emphasis on addressing present-day issues rather than delving into the past. Thus, it strives to equip individuals with practical tools to enhance their daily mental state.

Counselling and psychodynamic psychotherapy

Counselling represents a form of communication therapy where individuals engage in discussions with a qualified counsellor to address their concerns and challenges. Within psychodynamic psychotherapy, the focus lies in exploring personal emotions and relationships, delving into past experiences. Through these sessions, the goal is to understand whether any past events might be influencing present-day emotions and behaviours.


Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to address depression and are occasionally utilized for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when its symptoms are severe. The preferred class of antidepressants for managing SAD is known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications work by boosting serotonin levels in the brain, leading to an improvement in mood. If you find yourself prescribed with antidepressants, there are a few essential points to keep in mind: The full effects of the medication might take around four-to-six weeks to manifest. It's crucial to follow your prescribed dosage and continue taking the medication even if you experience an improvement in your condition. Some antidepressants might have side effects and could interact with other medications you are taking. Among the potential side effects, an upset stomach is the most common. For a comprehensive list, refer to the information leaflet accompanying your prescription. It's important to note that the evidence supporting the effectiveness of antidepressants in treating SAD is somewhat limited. However, they are believed to be most beneficial if initiated before the onset of winter symptoms and continued through the spring season.

Light Therapy

For some people with SAD, using light therapy can help improve their mood considerably. It involves sitting in front of, or beneath, a light box. Light boxes are special lamps that come in a variety of designs, including desk lamps and wall-mounted fixtures. They produce a very bright light. Light intensity is measured in lux – the higher lux, the brighter the light. Before using a light box to treat SAD, check the manufacturer’s information and instructions regarding: whether the product is suitable for treating SAD the light intensity you should be using how long you need to sit in front of the light When buying a light box, make sure that you choose one that has been produced by a fully certified manufacturer and is medically proven to treat SAD. The SAD Association (www.sada.org.uk) can provide a list of recommended manufacturers. Very bright light may not be suitable if you: have an eye problem or your eyes are particularly sensitive to light are taking certain types of medication, such as antidepressants have epilepsy – a condition that causes seizures (fits) Speak to your GP if you unsure about the suitability of a particular product.

Discover coping strategies

Exercise for SAD

Being depressed can leave you feeling low in energy, which might put you off being more active. Regular exercise can boost your mood if you have depression, and it's especially useful for people with mild to moderate depression. Any type of exercise is useful, as long as it suits you and you do enough of it. Exercise should be something you enjoy; otherwise, it will be hard to find the motivation to do it regularly.