Battling Seasonal Depression: How Therapy Can Help

October 4, 2023


Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that affects individuals during certain periods of the year [1]. As seasons change, so do our moods and mental health. For example, some people struggle to manage in cold, dark environments, so they stay indoors during the fall and winter. Some researchers have reported that a decrease in sunlight exposure disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm [2]. However, seasonal depression goes beyond affecting our moods at certain times of the year; it can negatively impact our quality of life, taking a toll on our physical health and relationships as well. Therapy can better equip those diagnosed with SAD with tools and resources to help them cope.


What are the most common signs of seasonal depression?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) differs from general depression in that it follows a pattern and is often recognized at the same time each year. Those dealing with SAD may experience low energy, loss of appetite, and overwhelming feelings of sadness confined to a certain time of the year [3]. Most people are affected by seasonal depression during fall and winter, although it can still occur in the warmer months. The arrival of spring and summer is often correlated with an lift in mood for those with SAD. It’s important to recognize these patterns before determining the best course of action, while also remembering that the disorder is thought to be linked caused by many factors including less sunlight and shorter days [4].

What forms of therapy help mitigate the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

About 10 million Americans experience SAD. However, therapy can help reduce the symptoms of seasonal depression.

Behavioral Activation  - Behavioral activation encourages individuals to schedule time to engage in activities they find meaningful and enjoyable. One’s energy level might be low when dealing with SAD. Engaging in exciting activities helps increase motivation levels and overall mood [5]. Individuals are encouraged to stay present and mindful during these activities, which can lead to a greater sense of satisfaction. Over time, patients may experience a gradual increase in motivation and establish a routine of participating in more activities. offers exercises to support behavioral activation.

Light Therapy - Light Therapy, also known as phototherapy, is an effective treatment for seasonal depression. This form of therapy involves exposure to artificial light that mimics sunlight. Light therapy aids in regulating the body’s circadian rhythm, increasing serotonin levels, and balancing melatonin levels. Some individuals experience improvement due to light therapy rather quickly, making it an efficient treatment option. Light therapy can be conducted in virtually any setting, allowing for flexibility during treatment [6].

Interpersonal Therapy - This form of therapy helps address symptoms by focusing on communication skills and relationships. Those dealing with seasonal affective disorder are likely to feel alone and isolated. Emphasizing the importance of maintaining relationships and expressing emotions with loved ones can lessen feelings of isolation, thereby mitigating the effects of seasonal depression [1].



Therapy offers practical ways to combat seasonal depression, providing tools for effective management. While seasonal affective disorder, like other forms of depression, may not be curable, it can certainly be managed and significantly improve one's overall quality of life with the right treatment and support. offers numerous digital therapeutic exercises to support behavioral activation and interpersonal therapy. Therapists, create a free account today and gain access to over 40 therapeutic exercises, automated reminders, and more.


  1. Drew, E. M., Hanson, B. L., & Huo, K. (2021). Seasonal affective disorder and engagement in physical activities among adults in Alaska. International journal of circumpolar health, 80(1), 1906058.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, April 13). "Lighting in the Workplace: NIOSH Training for Shift Work and Long Hours." CDC.,day%20to%20be%20more%20alert.]
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (n.d.). Seasonal Affective Disorder. []
  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved from
  5. Burkhardt, H. A., Alexopoulos, G. S., Pullmann, M. D., Hull, T. D., Areán, P. A., & Cohen, T. (2021). Behavioral Activation and Depression Symptomatology: Longitudinal Assessment of Linguistic Indicators in Text-Based Therapy Sessions. Journal of medical Internet research, 23(7), e28244.
  6. Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan. (n.d.). Seeing the Light for Improved Mood. Retrieved from