Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of psychological disorder in which people suffer from debilitating depression or mania during specific months of the year. Depending on the exact type of SAD a patient suffers from, he may experience some combination of the following symptoms:
  • Aloofness or hyper social activity
  • Anxiety
  • Depression or mania (an excited state marked by irrationality, hyper activity, violence and/or elation)
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Irritability
While researchers are still investigating the precise factors that cause SAD, they have identified some risk factors, including:
  • Family history
  • Gender
  • Location of residence

For example, while those who are related to SAD patients are at a higher risk of developing seasonal affective disorder, people who live in areas that receive less sunlight during certain parts of the year are also more likely to suffer from SAD. Similarly, women are more disposed to developing SAD than men.

Because SAD is a relatively new disorder (it has only been classified as a mood disorder since the 1970s), experts are still conducting studies on the best ways to diagnose and treat SAD. Consequently, treatments for SAD usually revolve around reducing and effectively managing the symptoms of the condition.

Light Therapy

As the primary method of treating SAD, light therapy is a non-invasive therapy in which patients sit next to a strong lamp for at least 30 minutes each day. In general, doctors recommend that patients practice light therapy in the morning with lamps that are 10 to 20 times stronger than typical indoor lighting. Research has proven that light therapy is effective at treating seasonal affective disorder in about 85 percent of known cases.

Activities that patients can still do while practicing light therapy include:

  • Cleaning
  • Eating
  • Exercising
  • Reading
  • Watching TV
  • Working
While people can do a number of other activities during light therapy, keep in mind that the activity will have to keep the patient a few feet away from the strengthened lamp. As a result, sedentary activities are generally easier to do while a patient is practicing light therapy.

Antidepressants

Because medical experts tend to agree that seasonal affective disorder is related to biochemical processes (processes affected by your body’s chemical makeup), many prescribe antidepressant medications to their SAD patients. Common SAD medications include:
  • Effexor
  • Paxil
  • Prozac
  • Wellbutrin
  • Zoloft

These medications are all effective at treating the depression that is symptomatic of SAD. Keep in mind that you need to take these medications for an extended period of time before they start to have an effect.

Common side effects associated with antidepressants prescribed for SAD include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Constipation
  • Cramping
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Nausea

If you have already been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, your doctor may recommend that you start taking antidepressants a few weeks before the change of seasons.

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