Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Explains seasonal affective disorder, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

Your stories

The misconceptions surrounding SAD

Vicky talks about her experience of Seasonal Affective disorder (SAD) and the misconceptions that surround it.

Vicky Leigh
Posted on 20/12/2017

Mind podcast - Living with SAD

Sarah talks to us about living with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and how friends and family can help.

Posted on 26/09/2016

How important is sleep to your mental health?

How important is sleep to your mental health?

Posted on 05/08/2014

What can friends and family do to help?

This page is for family and friends who want to support someone with SAD.

SAD can have a major impact on someone’s life, and leave them feeling very ill for much of the year. Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness often mean that people avoid their friends and relatives rather than ask for help or support.

However, this is a time when they need your help and support the most. These ideas may help:

Encourage them to seek treatment

Encouraging them to seek appropriate treatment is perhaps the most important thing that you can do. You can reassure them that it is possible to do something to feel better, but you need to do so in a caring and sympathetic way.

It can be important for some people to be reminded that SAD is a recognised mental health disorder like many others and that they have similar rights to treatment and support.

Practical support

If you are able, you might want to offer practical support to help. For example, you could:

  • take on household tasks, particularly if they need time for treatment such as seeing a counsellor or light therapy
  • if they are taking antidepressants, help them to cope with any side effects where you can – for example, by letting them lie in if they have disturbed sleep
  • be particularly sensitive about how many demands they can cope with – for example, avoid having large numbers of house guests at once during winter

Emotional support

As well as practical steps, you can show that you care and offer emotional support by listening emphathetically, by being affectionate, by appreciating them or simply by spending time with them.

Even with support, someone with SAD may be irritable at times or find it difficult to relate to other people. It can be hard to support someone if they do not appear to appreciate the help you are trying to offer. You may find that you need to be a bit more patient than usual. Try not to blame the person for being depressed, or tell them to ‘pull themselves together’. They are probably already blaming themselves and criticism is likely to make them feel even worse. Remember that, with help and understanding, they are likely to feel better in time.

Supporting a friend or relative can be difficult, and you may want to seek support to help you cope. There may be a local support group for people in a similar situation, or you might want to talk to your GP about getting help for yourself. See How to cope when supporting someone else for more information.

This information was published in June 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

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