What is Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder (SADD) and how do we cope?

Updated: Mar 19

Do you notice that every year, during a certain season, your mood changes? As the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer and it’s raining most of the time, many of us experience at least some decrease in mood, but how do we differentiate between a common case of the winter blues, and the onset of what is known as Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder (SADD)? The absence of sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin levels, a brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) that is involved in mood. If serotonin levels drop too much, it can trigger the onset of depression.

Signs and symptoms of SADD in the fall and winter include:

- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day

- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed

- Having low energy

- Having problems with sleeping

- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight

- Feeling sluggish or agitated

- Having difficulty concentrating

- Feeling lonely and isolated

- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty

- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

SADD can also occur during spring or summer. Signs of SADD during the spring and summer months are usually characterized by trouble sleeping (insomnia), poor appetite, weight loss, and agitation or anxiety.

It’s important to remember that we are also facing a global pandemic and all of the changes and restrictions in our daily lives that come along with that. A lack of social engagement and connection with loved ones can increase feelings of loneliness and isolation which are all symptoms of SADD, potentially making the disorder even more challenging and intense.

Some ways to cope with SADD include:

- Purchasing a SADD lamp, or “Happy Light”. Research shows that even sitting beside a SADD lamp for 15 to 20 minutes a day may significantly improve quality of mood

- Setting a routine for yourself to follow each day can help increase feelings of satisfaction

- Exercise, even in light forms such as walking and stretching can increase your levels of serotonin

- A study completed a few years ago showed that people who decorated their homes with Christmas lights and ornaments and kept them up for longer periods of time experienced happier moods than those who did not. Read more!

- Reach out to someone you trust even if it feels difficult. Connection in many forms can increase our feelings of happiness, worthiness, and safety

- Reach out for help. Counselling for SADD can help you process negative feelings, motivate you to make changes, and provide you with coping skills to combat your depression so you can start feeling better

- If you are feeling suicidal and need immediate assistance, call 1-800-suicide for 24/hour support

The team at the BC Borstal Association is always here to help. Reach out to us at to see if counselling is right for you