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How is Seasonal Affective Disorder Treated?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder which is linked with the change of seasons. There are a number of treatments for this condition including medication and psychotherapy, but before a patient enters treatment, he or she must be diagnosed. There are a range of causes for mood disorders, and it is important to make sure that clients are diagnosed with the right condition so that they can get the best treatment possible.

This condition most typically strikes patients in the winter, when light levels are low. In Scandinavia and regions above the Arctic circle, rates of seasonal affective disorder tend to be quite high in the winter, suggesting a clear link between available light and this psychological disorder. The condition is characterized by lethargy, tiredness, depression, changes in sleep or eating patterns, and a lack of interest in socializing. A patient is typically diagnosed after talking with a psychologist or psychiatrist, who can provide the patient with some treatment options.

One of the most common treatments for seasonal affective disorder is light therapy. Since the condition appears to be caused by changes in light levels, doctors believe that patients can benefit from exposure to bright, full spectrum light which mimics healthy outdoor light. Patients can use light boxes or special lamps which are designed to be extremely bright, typically exposing themselves to the light for a set period each day; some patients also create artificial sunrises with their light boxes to help themselves wake up and normalize their sleeping patterns.

For severe depression associated with season affective disorder, a doctor may prescribe antidepressant medications. A range of options are available, depending on the specific needs of the patient, and these medications are typically accompanied with psychotherapy. Patients can also benefit from psychotherapy alone in some cases, as they may be able to deal with psychological issues which trigger seasonal affective disorder or make it worse.

Simply spending time outdoors during periods of natural light can also be beneficial, as can spending a lot of time near windows. People who suffer from seasonal affective disorder should try to work near large windows without blinds, if possible, so that they are exposed to as much light as possible in the dark winter months. Some people also claim that they benefit from air ionizers; this therapy is as yet unproved by the medical establishment.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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