Treatments for seasonal affective disorder

Living with Seasonal Affective Disorder can be difficult as you may feel unhappy and tired for a prolonged period, which could have an impact on your performance at work and relationships at home. However, there are various treatments to choose from and you can also try a combination. Your GP will suggest the most suitable treatment programme given your symptoms. 

Light Therapy 

Light Therapy can really help some people who experience SAD. This involves sitting in close proximity to a special light or light box which emits a brighter light. Light therapy isn’t suitable for everyone so be sure to discuss this with your GP. If purchasing a light, ensure that it has been certified to use for the treatment of SAD, to find out more visit:   

Light therapy is believed to work by simulating the sunlight that is noticeably reduced during the winter months. The additional light is thought to stimulate the production of melatonin and serotonin which could ease the symptoms of SAD. Evidence supporting light therapy is mixed.  

Talking Therapies 

As with other types of depression, talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be effective in treating SAD. This involves talking with a professional therapist, exploring how you think of situations and the subsequent feelings this fosters, while finding alternative ways of thinking and behaving. Sessions could last for several weeks or months, depending on the need.  


Medication can sometimes be used in isolation but also in combination with talking therapies. Anti-depressants are usually prescribed for the more severe cases of SAD.  

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are often prescribed for treating SAD as they increase the level of the hormone serotonin in your brain which lifts your mood. It can take up to 6 weeks to take full effect and you may experience side effects (read the information leaflet which comes with the medication for more details).  

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