Health Advocate Blog

Seasonal depression got you down? Your Employee Assistance Program can help

For those who suffer from it, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, often occurs at the same time every year. With seasonal depression, you may notice symptoms starting in the fall and lasting into the winter months, leaving you feeling drained and moody. In most cases, symptoms of seasonal depression seem to alleviate during the sunnier days of spring and summer. However, some people report having the opposite pattern of symptoms, where the depression actually begins in the spring or summer.

What causes seasonal affective disorder?

The cause of SAD remains unknown, but the Mayo Clinic suggests that a few factors may be responsible:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight during fall and winter may disrupt your body’s internal clock, which lets you know when you should sleep or be awake. This disruption of your circadian rhythm may lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a chemical in the brain that affects mood, might play a role in seasonal affective disorder. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the natural hormone melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

But there is good news for those suffering from SAD: Your Employee Assistance Program is available to help you!

How EAP can help

Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, are benefit programs offered by many employers to help their employees deal with personal problems that might impact work performance, health and well-being. EAPs are intended to help when someone is struggling with an emotional hardship, like seasonal depression, and can provide short-term counseling as well as referral services.

EAP counselors can usually address the following:

  • Stress, depression, anxiety
  • Marital issues, relationships, family/parenting issues
  • Work conflicts
  • Anger, grief, loss of a loved one
  • Drug and alcohol abuse

Another great thing about EAP programs is that they are generally provided at no cost to you. Your employer usually takes on the cost of these programs, offering them as a free benefit to help employees. If you’re worried about privacy, don’t be—the EAP counselors will keep your conversations confidential, and they won’t share the information with your employer.

If you are a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life service, lean on us for assistance issues like mental illness, stress-related illness, substance abuse, work-related problems, family-related problems and more. Additionally, our EAP+Work/Life service can make referrals for long-term care, such as counseling, when appropriate. Our EAP+Work/Life service can help you handle your personal issues so that you can be happier, less stressed, and more productive.

Additional resources for help

If you or someone you know is suffering from seasonal depression, but don’t have access to an Employee Assistance Program, there are many other resources available. The following websites are full of information and resources to help you:

Mayo Clinic:

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Lifestyle and home remedies

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Treatment Works: Get Help for Depression and Anxiety

National Institute of Mental Health:

Prevention Education

National Institute of Mental Health:

Women and Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

The NAMI Information Helpline