Life-changing online care for seasonal affective disorder

Our providers understand the challenges of SAD, and have real-world experience helping people just like you.

Start with a free assessment

Our Care

Expert care, tailored to you

Different people experience SAD in different ways. That’s why our providers work 1:1 with you to personalize treatment to your unique needs.

Personalized Psychiatry

When medication is necessary, our psychiatric providers analyze 100+ data points to determine the most tolerable and effective prescription for you.

Learn More

Clinically-Proven Therapy

Our program combines cognitive and behavioral therapy with independent skill practice—all of which have been clinically proven to work for a wide range of symptoms.

Learn More

Mental Health condition

Understanding seasonal affective disorder

Since SAD is a subtype of depression, SAD symptoms are the same as the symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD). However, these symptoms only occur seasonally and typically during the late fall and winter months.

What is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons—SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and messing with your mood.

Symptoms of major depressive disorder:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having low energy
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having problems with sleep
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Lack of sexual energy (libido)
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

In addition to the symptoms of MDD, season-specific symptoms of SAD can also include:

  • Hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness or drowsiness)
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Craving for carbohydrates
  • Social withdrawal or you feel like “hibernating”


Virtual, dedicated support every step of the way

Brightside app screenshot

1:1 Video Sessions

Let your provider know how you’re feeling, get to know you, and provide 1:1 support.

Start Treatment Now

Brightside app screenshot

Anytime Messaging

Get questions or concerns off your chest between video visits by messaging your provider at any time.

Start Treatment Now

Brightside app screenshot

Interactive Lessons

Learn how to integrate new thought and behavior patterns into your daily life.

Start Treatment Now

Brightside app screenshot

Proactive Progress Tracking

Complete weekly check-ins so your provider can track your progress and, if necessary, adjust your treatment and/or medication.

Start Treatment Now

Our plan options

Affordable help, with or without insurance

Because quality mental health care shouldn’t be out of reach for anyone.



Pay with insurance
or $95/month

Get Started

Or learn more



Pay with insurance
or $95/month

Get Started

Or learn more


+ Therapy

Pay with insurance
or $349/month

Get Started

Or learn more

Free Assessment

Get started in
just 3 minutes

86% of our members feel better within 12 weeks.

begin assessment

We accept insurance.iInsurance coverage varies by state. Get started to check your eligibility.

Aetna logo Cigna logo United Healthcare logo Anthem logo BCBS logo


What’s on your mind?

If your question isn’t answered below, view our full list of FAQs here.

Brightside is available to people 18 years and older in the states where Brightside operates who believe they may be experiencing depression and may benefit from treatment.

Remote care is not a good fit for people with certain conditions or situations. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Previous suicide attempt or active suicide planning
  • Ongoing, high risk self-harm behavior
  • Recent involuntary hospitalization for psychiatric reasons
  • Schizophrenia or any symptoms of psychosis
  • Certain severities of Bipolar Disorder and symptoms of mania
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Eating disorder with high-risk symptoms
  • Kidney or liver disease, seizures, or long QT (for Psychiatry plan only)

Our providers do not treat, and do not prescribe for adhd.

If any of these describe you, it’s best for you to be seen by a provider in person so you can get the care that’s right for you.

Brightside makes it easy to get top quality depression care from the privacy of home.

Here’s how Psychiatry works:

  1. Take the assessment: Answer questions about yourself to provide the information your provider will need to thoroughly evaluate your situation.
  2. Connect with a psychiatric provider: Get matched with an expert psychiatric provider for a comprehensive video consultation. Share how you’re feeling, then decide on the best next steps — together. These conversations normally last about 15 minutes to review your situation, discuss your care plan, and answer any questions you may have. 
  3. Follow your care plan: If the provider chooses to prescribe, your medication will be sent to your local pharmacy. Your plan also includes digital therapy, and self-care tools you can use at your own pace.
  4. Make progress: We’ll ask you to tell us about your symptoms and side effects weekly, allowing the provider to monitor your progress and make any necessary changes to your care plan, so you can get the best results.

Here’s how Therapy works:

  1. Take the assessment: Tell us what you’re experiencing, and we’ll help you understand what it means.
  2. Connect with a Therapist: Connect with an expert, licensed therapist by messaging and with access to one 45-minute video appointment included with your subscription each week. You will continue to have Unlimited messaging support and guidance to help you build skills and feel better.
  3. Complete sessions: Complete personalized, self-paced audio lessons and practice exercises, building the evidence-based skills and habits you need to overcome your depression and anxiety.
  4. Make Progress: Report back on what’s working well for you and where you want to go deeper with the option to purchase additional video sessions if you choose. Your therapist will help guide you through your personalized program so you see the best results.

When scheduling your first appointment, you can browse all of our available providers in your state. Take a look at their profiles and check open times to find the best fit for you. Every Brightside provider undergoes a rigorous hiring and vetting process to ensure the highest quality care.

Brightside currently accepts select insurance plans in various states for payment of your provider’s or therapist’s services. Please see below for a current listing of plans. Brightside may not be included in all plans that each health insurance company offers. Please contact your health insurance plan to verify that your care at Brightside will be covered.

We currently accept the following insurance plans:

  • Cigna (all states, except MN)
  • Aetna (nationwide)
  • Allegience (nationwide)
  • Anthem (CA only)
  • United Health (select states)

If you are a new member signing up for services you can enter your insurance information during the sign-up process. We’ll let you know your eligibility, as well as you estimated co-pays and out-of-pocket costs (if any) before signing-up or scheduling.

We also accept HSA/FSA payment if you have one of those accounts. If you have questions about using your medical or prescription insurance benefits, please contact us by emailing [email protected].

The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but research points to decreased exposure to daylight as the main contributor. Sunlight exposure stimulates the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps control your circadian rhythm. Lack of light throws the circadian rhythm off, which can cause the brain to produce too much melatonin and release less serotonin. The result leaves many people feeling low and lethargic.

Additionally, several attributes may increase your risk of SAD. They include:

  • Being female: SAD is diagnosed four times more often in women than in men.
  • Living far from the equator: The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests that living farther from the equator can increase the risk of developing SAD. People who live in places where the days are much shorter in winter are more susceptible.
  • Family history: People with a family history of other types of depression are more likely to develop SAD than people who do not have a family history of depression.
  • Being young: Younger adults have a higher risk of SAD than older adults, usually starting between ages 18 and 30.
  • Having depression or bipolar disorder: SAD is more common in people with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. Depressive symptoms may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.

It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But when symptoms enter the moderate to severe range and begin to interfere with social and occupational functioning it may be time to seek professional help. If you are unsure where on the range your symptoms fall, taking a free online evaluation can help figure out the best immediate next step. Brightside offers one on our website for free.

Recognizing a seasonal pattern is the key to an accurate diagnosis. Symptoms usually begin in October or November and subside in March or April. If you believe you may have a seasonal depressive pattern, it’s essential to pay attention to it. Track your symptoms, noting when they begin and when they go away. This self-awareness can help with an accurate diagnosis. Mental health professionals will ask you about your observations and your family history since mood disorders tend to have a genetic component.

There are three major types of treatment for SAD that may be used alone or in combination with the others:

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are used to treat the symptoms of SAD. As with other medications, there are side effects to SSRIs. Talk to your doctor about the possible risks of using this medication for your mental health condition. You may need to try several different antidepressant medications before finding the one that improves your symptoms without causing side effects. For more information on antidepressants, check out our post 7 Common Myths and Misconceptions About Antidepressants.

Light Therapy
The idea behind light therapy is to supplement the natural light of fall and winter using daily exposure to bright, artificial light indoors. Using a lightbox within the first hour of waking has proven to be effective. It’s important to speak with a healthcare professional regarding light therapy before using a light box, but it should deliver 10,000 lux of light and emit as little UV light as possible. 20-30min per day is the recommended dose, at a distance of 2 feet, with eyes open but not looking directly at the light.

Therapy (CBT-SAD)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of treatment that has been shown to be effective in treating SAD. Traditional cognitive behavioral therapy techniques have been adapted for use with SAD (CBT-SAD). CBT-SAD relies on CBT’s basic techniques, such as identifying negative thoughts and replacing them with more positive thoughts. CBT-SAD also incorporates a technique called behavioral activation. Behavioral activation seeks to help someone identify engaging and pleasurable activities, whether indoors or outdoors, to improve coping during the winter months.


If you’re in emotional distress, text HOME to connect with a counselor immediately.


Call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for 24/7 emotional support.


If you’re having a medical or mental health emergency, call 911 or go to your local ER.