Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that develops with the change of seasons. Can SAD be treated the same way as depression or are there other considerations? What are the treatment options for seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder is often called the “winter blues” as more people affected experience symptoms in the fall lasting through the winter months. In rare cases, people will get SAD during spring or summer, but it is more common during the colder months.
It is believed that reduced exposure to sunlight causes SAD. Serotonin and melatonin levels in the brain can drop, causing mood and sleep pattern changes, as well as other symptoms related to depression.
Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can be treated the same as depression with the use of medications, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. Alternative home treatments that include herbal remedies may work as well.
Many people have side effects from medications and even herbal remedies. Psychotherapy alone does not work for everyone. There are other treatment option for SAD that are not generally used in the treatment of depression. These include negative ion therapy, dawn simulators and light therapy.
Negative ion therapy uses the release of negatively charged ions in the air. You can buy home air cleaners for this purpose. These ions clear the air of small particles of dust and dirt. Do you notice how the air outside often feels cleaner after a thunderstorm? Negative ions are produced in nature by a variety of factors, including the sun. This treatment is not widely used, but may help alleviate some symptoms of SAD.
Dawn simulators, or dawn and dusk simulators, mimic sunrise and sunset found in spring. The light gradual grows or diminishes depending on the time of day. This form of light therapy can be effective for some people by keeping sleep patterns on track. If you wake and sleep easily by natural dawn and dusk, this device can be set to make sunrise seem to appear earlier during winter months, while producing a natural dusk for longer “daytime” hours.
Light therapy is the most common and widely used therapy for seasonal affective disorder. It can be used in the home by use of a SAD light, or light box. Although light boxes can be purchased without a prescription, you should discuss the use of light therapy with your doctor to see if this option is right for you. Your doctor can also advise as to the best light therapy box to treat your symptoms.
Light therapy boxes are made to imitate the natural light of the sun. When used properly, SAD lights can keep serotonin and melatonin levels up in the brain. This helps prevent lowered mood levels and helps regulate sleep patterns for a more restful sleep.
Some recommendations for SAD lights include using a product specifically labeled to be used for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder, the use of broad spectrum light and the availability of 10,000 Lux at a specific distance. You and your doctor can discuss the specifications needed if a SAD light is a good option for you.
It is important to note that although SAD lights are an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder, light therapy alone may not be enough to treat your symptoms. You may need to use a SAD light in combination with medication, psychotherapy, home remedies or a combination.
You can view my article SAD Lights to find out more about light therapy boxes. You can also read more about Tips for Choosing a SAD Light and Tips for Using a SAD Light for treating seasonal affective disorder. As always, it is best to talk with your doctor about your symptoms to find the best treatment options for seasonal affective disorder.
THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT MEANT TO DIAGNOSE OR TREAT ANY ILLNESS. PLEASE SPEAK WITH YOUR PHYSICIAN BEFORE TRYING ANY HOME TREATMENT OPTIONS, INCLUDING LIGHT THERAPY, FOR SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER.
FamilyDoctor.org; Seasonal Affective Disorder
Mayo Clinic; Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Jolynne M Hudnell; SAD Lights; Associated Content/Yahoo!
Jolynne M Hudnell; Tips for Choosing a SAD Light; Associated Content/Yahoo!
Jolynne M Hudnell; Tips for Using a SAD Light; Associated Content/Yahoo!