Are you Struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Evidence that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, a treatment for anxiety and depression in general, can help seasonal depression and may prevent it from recurring in future years…

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.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

SAD is a complex depressive illness. It is most likely triggered by the lack of sunlight in winter, which affects levels of hormones (melatonin and serotonin) in the part of the brain controlling mood, sleep and appetite – our circadian rhythms.

Symptoms of SAD are wide-ranging and can include depression, lack of energy, concentration problems, anxiety, overeating, loss of libido, social and relationship problems and sudden mood changes or periods of hypomania (over-activity) in spring.

As such, it is best to think of SAD as a spectrum. On one end of the scale, some people are not at all affected by seasonal changes. Further along, those experiencing “winter blues” might find themselves feeling tired, grumpy and a bit down. At the other end of the depression spectrum, though, some people may have to take time off work and drastically limit their daily routines.

When to seek treatment

You should consider treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder when:
You never get out of bed
You lose interest In hobbies
You have an excessive craving for carbohydrates
You start developing concentration problems
You develop Irregular Physicality
You start saying no to socialising
You have a lack of energy
You become hypersensitive
You have a low libido
You only experience these symptoms in winter
I found the therapist was very insightful and helped with lots of issues by providing skills and strategies to handle mood and regulate anxiety.
Female, 27
It has been incredibly insightful as I have never been depressed or anxious in the past and CBT has allowed me to analyse and understand my mood and stressors.
Female, 39
I learned to identify and manage my anxiety/stress/low mood and also develop new problem-solving skills.
Male, 29
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What you need to know

Otherwise known as SAD, this brand of depression rears its ugly head as fall fades into winter. Specifically, “SAD is a short-term depression that occurs during the colder months, coinciding with fewer hours of daylight,” says Life-Well’s Dr Michele Barton in an email to Bustle. “In my experience, there is usually an underlying mild to moderate anxiety and depression, which is compounded by the lack of light and an extreme dislike for winter.”
SAD can be treated, much like regular depression. Apart from prescribed medication, “working out is the best medicine here, [as it] boosts mood, improves sleep … and could be a social activity,” Barton adds. You can also boost your mood by eating vitamin-rich foods and trying to get as much sunlight as possible. (Yes, even though it’s freezing outside.)

Initially, your CBT therapist will help you complete a list of the problems you want to address. You’ll also develop realistic, flexible and frequently reviewed goals you would like to achieve.

Your therapist will encourage you to talk about your thoughts and feelings and what's troubling you. Don't worry if you find it hard to open up about your feelings. Your therapist can help you gain more confidence and comfort.

A BABCP accredited therapist helps you to understand the relationship between:

Unhelpful Behaviours (e.g. avoidance or substance use)
Thinking distortions (like catastrophising or always looking at the worst part of the experience)
Being in negative emotional states (like anxiety, stress or depression)
Physical symptoms (such as lack of energy, muscle tension or palpitations)
Traumatic life events
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