What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? (SAD)

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? (SAD)

According to an NHS survey, 1 in 15 people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) between the months of September & April. Only 12% are completely aware and know much about it, with only 5% saying they are happiest in winter. 

So what is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD) is a short-term depression that occurs during the colder months, coinciding with fewer daylight hours. It is most likely triggered by the lack of sunlight in winter. This affects levels of hormones (melatonin and serotonin) in the part of the brain controlling mood, sleep and appetite – known as our circadian rhythms.

Because “traditional” depression usually comes with sleeping problems and reduced appetite, SAD is associated with a yearning to “hibernate”. It’s normal to be affected by the changing of seasons or weather. For example, you may find your mood dips and your sleeping patterns change from one season to the next.

When these feelings and changes start to affect your day-to-day life, that is when it can be something more, especially if these feelings keep coming back. By getting lots of natural sunlight, exercising regularly and managing your stress levels contribute to reducing this disorder’s effect. 

What treatment is best for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the treatment choice for anxiety and depression, along with other emotional issues. Sometimes medication is advised and works well alongside CBT; this type of therapy would be the chosen therapy to treat SAD.

When addressing symptoms related to Seasonal Affective Disorder, CBT challenges the sufferer’s perceived negative thoughts and opinions of a season. Our BABCP-accredited therapists here at Onebright offer the highest standard of CBT possible. Your therapist will encourage you to evaluate your feelings when you think about the winter months and challenge your misconceptions of what you can do during this time. 

Firstly, recognise the symptoms of SAD; diagnosis can usually be made after two to three consecutive winters with the symptoms. Some of which we have listed below:

  • You feel like you literally can’t get out of bed
  • You lose interest in hobbies
  • You crave carbohydrates more than usual
  • You have problems concentrating
  • You experience unusual physicalities
  • You start to avoid socialising
  • You feel increasingly lethargic
  • You become hypersensitive 
  • You’ve noticed you have a low libido 
  • You only seem to feel the above during the winter months 


If you can relate to most of the above, and it’s affecting your day-to-day life, then it could be time to get help. This doesn’t have to be something you just put up with. 

Here are some top CBT tips that can help if you are struggling with SAD right now:
  • Recognise the signs and how it affects you
  • Maximise your exposure to light (SAD LED/blue light therapeutic lamps)
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • Manage your stress levels (take time out, break tasks into small steps, delegate)
  • Look into having CBT therapy 


At Onebright, we have an 87% recovery rate for those who complete our therapy sessions. The industry standard is only 52%, so that’s one of many reasons you should opt for private mental health care with us. We also offer cost-effective online therapy, where you can work through modules at your own pace with assisted calls from one of our therapists.

Whether you’re struck down by “seasonal blues” or SAD depression, the most important thing to remember is this: you don’t have to wait for winter to pass to start feeling better.

Lastly, if you or someone you know suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, call our friendly client services team today to discuss CBT therapy in London and the UK.

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