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Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder
John A. Invernizzi, Ph.D.
Before undertaking any course of treatment, seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.
Treatment for SAD
Once you are diagnosed with SAD, you and your medical professional can work out a treatment plan. It may mean simply getting more exercise, and getting more sun exposure! Depending on the severity of your symptoms and medical history, some medication or supplements may be prescribed or recommended.
Treatment will not cure SAD, but might make the symptoms manageable. The treatment plan should address any coexisting medical problems or conditions. Adjunctive therapy may be useful with the treatment of SAD, i.e., adding an additional treatment, medication or supplements to make the first more effective.
Affecting the Seasonal Mood Cycles of SAD
Light therapy is usually the first choice treatment for SAD, and could be continued until the season changes. Some studies indicate that light therapy in the morning produces greater therapeutic effect than evening light. After you start light therapy, you may start to feel better. Light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals mentioned earlier in this article, easing SAD symptoms.
Light boxes can be purchased over the counter or online, however you should get a clinical assessment to insure correct and optimal usage. Improper use may cause headaches and other serious problems. Talk with your doctor or medical professional before buying a light box, and ask for recommendations to make sure your selection is safe and most effective for you.
Always discuss your concerns with a mental health care professional to ensure the best treatment for your needs. Some other treatments that may help include:
Antidepressants--Your doctor may recommend some medication to improve the balance of brain chemicals that affect mood. There may be side effects as with any medication.
Counseling--Some types of counseling (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy) may help you to manage your SAD symptoms.
Vitamins and Supplements--May be recommended by your physician.
Exercise--There is some evidence that exercising helps with SAD symptoms. Ask your physician what type of exercise, and how much sunlight exposure is right for you. S/he may recommend exercising outdoors in the morning (even a walk) or near a large window if you cannot get outside (in the sunlight).
Two types of light therapy are bright light treatment and dawn simulation.
Bright light treatment requires you to be near a light box for a suggested amount of time, usually in the morning. Some of these boxes are large, very bright, and expensive.
A dim light goes on in the morning while you sleep with dawn simulation, and it gets brighter over time, like a sunrise. Some devices come equipped with morning sounds and/or a radio, and you may be able to use it to simulate dusk, as well.