Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) the Right Way
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the entire world. More than 264 million people of all ages are living with depression or depression-related symptoms all around the globe. If not treated properly and in a timely manner, depression can lead to suicide.
Although many people understand the dangers of depression, most people won’t seek treatment and will, instead, decide to keep their emotions bottled up. Of course, this is no way to live your life and you should always seek help from a support group or therapist immediately.
What many people don’t know about depression is that there are several different types of depression and they come in all different forms and situations. While major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most common type, you should never rule out Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
So, what is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
For many people, the fall and winter are seasons filled with joy and excitement. For others, that joy and excitement is hard to come by. Once the seasons start to change and the days get shorter, they start feeling ‘down’ on themselves and experience sudden mood changes.
If this sounds like you, you could be living with something known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It’s a type of depression that generally begins in late-fall or early-winter and starts to subside during spring and summer. It’s not as common as MDD, but it’s just as destructive.
How to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
In order to receive the proper treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the individual must first be diagnosed with it. The diagnosis and symptoms of SAD are extremely similar to that of major depressive disorder, but is only prevalent in certain months or seasons of the year.
There are four main ways a therapist or doctor will treat Seasonal Affective Disorder — vitamin D prescription, light therapy, psychotherapy, and antidepressants. Some individuals may be treated with one of the above, while others might be given a combination of treatments above.
Let’s take a closer look at these four treatment options:
Vitamin D Prescription
Studies show that many people living with SAD are also living with a Vitamin D deficiency, meaning their body doesn’t receive enough Vitamin D on a daily basis. This can be reversed through supplementation or a prescription that helps the individual raise their Vitamin D levels.
While we find Vitamin D in some foods, such as oily fish, red meat, liver egg yolks, and fortified foods, most people don’t receive enough through their diet. In fact, the body produces its own Vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. That’s why you need to get outside every day.
Of course, we don’t get as much sunlight in the winter months as we do in the summer months. That’s why Vitamin D is often considered as an addition to treatment for SAD. It won’t help treat SAD in itself, but it can be effective when combined with other treatment options listed below.
For nearly 40 years, light therapy has been one of the most popular forms of treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder. As the name suggests, it’s where an individual is exposed to a bright light to make up for all the natural sunlight the individual isn’t receiving during the day.
In order for the treatment to work, the individual needs to spend anywhere from 30-45 minutes in front of a light box that provides an illuminance of 10,000 lux. For comparison, this is roughly 20 times brighter than most indoor light that we’re exposed to on a daily basis — that’s bright!
Since light therapy is designed to block out any damaging UV rays that the individual might be exposed to, it’s a rather safe treatment for most. The only people that might want to avoid this type of treatment are those with certain eye diseases or those taking certain medications.
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is yet another extremely effective form of treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It requires the individual to meet with a qualified, trusted, and experienced therapist for something called cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT.
The therapist also uses something called behavioral activation, which involves identifying and scheduling indoor and outdoor activities that help the individual feel more engaged during the winter months.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression, which means it impacts the level of serotonin activity in the individual’s body and brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that also acts as a hormone. It’s one of the chemicals that controls our mood, happiness, and well-being.
To help combat the reduced levels of serotonin activity in the body, therapists and doctors generally prescribe something called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — better known as antidepressants.
It should be noted that antidepressants like SSRI’s can have side effects. The individual should speak with their doctor before adding this form of treatment to their plan. While they’re an effective form of treatment for many people, they’re not guaranteed to work, by any means.
Don’t Hesitate to Seek Help Today
If you or a loved one are living with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or any form of depression for that matter, don’t hesitate to seek help today. There are plenty of ways a doctor or therapist can provide treatment, but it’s only available to those that take that first step. For more information, read this article: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/treating-seasonal-affective-disorder-light-therapy-and-other-treatments/.
In the event you’re unsure about your symptoms or feel it’s time to receive a diagnosis, feel free to contact our good friends over at BetterHelp. They can help you better identify your symptoms and match you with a qualified and trusted therapist for further evaluation and treatment options.
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