How is Seasonal Affective Disorder Treated?
While the exact cause of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is unknown, there are several medical treatments available to reduce symptoms. If you’ve been diagnosed with SAD, your doctor will choose the most suitable treatment, or combination of treatments, for you based on the nature and severity of your case.
According to Mental Health America, half a million Americans experience seasonal affective disorder every winter, with symptoms peaking in December, January, and February. Seasonal affective disorder is traditionally treated with medication, psychotherapy, and light therapy. Below, you’ll find a brief description of the three different treatment types.
SAD is frequently treated with the use of antidepressants. The most commonly used antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which boost your serotonin levels and help elevate your mood. Antidepressants generally take between four to six weeks to take effect.
- Psychosocial Therapy
Accroding to Saint Louis Behavioral Institute, psychodynamic psychotherapy is a type of treatment aimed at determining whether anything in your life is affecting your current depression. This type of counseling involves talking to a trained mental health professional about your problems and worries.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves sessions with a specially trained therapist over the course of several weeks or months. The goal of CBT is to help you change the way you think about and react to certain situations.
- Light Therapy
Light therapy works by mimicking the sunlight that is scarce during the darker winter months. The light from a light box is said to encourage the body’s production of serotonin and melatonin, the hormones that regulate your mood and sleep patterns.
Preventing SAD Naturally
There are several lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce your symptoms of SAD. Pedro Dago, MD, assistant professor or psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, suggests the following tips:
. Get plenty of rest – Make an effort to wake up at the same time every day. This will keep your body’s internal clock in balance.
. Get as much sunlight as possible – Expose yourself to sunlight whenever possible by opening curtains and blinds at home during the day. At work, make sure your desk or work space is getting enough natural light.
. Get moving – Exercise isn’t just great for your physical health, it can do wonders for your psychological state of mind as well. Exercise helps relieve anxiety and stress, which can exacerbate the symptoms of SAD. Low impact exercise like yoga and Pilates are both good ways to exercise and relieve stress.
. Maintain your social habits – It’s tempting to want to stay inside during the winter months, but it’s important to get out of the house every now and then. Stay connected to the important people in your life by making a point to visit friends and family.
. Learn to manage stress effectively – Find some time each day to relax. Learning to manage your stress will help you prevent SAD symptoms from progressing to a deeper depression.
If you’ve been experiencing symptoms of depression associated with the changes in season, it’s time to seek help. SAD is a serious illness, but it can be treated. Contact your IGP doctor to discuss the many treatment options available to you.
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