seasonal affective disorder (SAD) doesn't cure the
seasonal depression, but it can help relieve your symptoms. Your symptoms may improve if you get more natural sunlight during the daytime. Light therapy is
the main treatment for SAD, and research is continuing to determine the most
effective way to use it. Medicines and counseling may also be used to treat
There are two types of light therapy. One type is bright light treatment, in which
you sit in front of a "light box" for a certain amount of time (usually in the
morning). The other type is dawn simulation, which is done while you sleep. For dawn
simulation, a low-intensity light is timed to go on at a certain time in the
morning before you wake up, and it gradually gets brighter.
boxes use fluorescent lights that are brighter
than indoor lights but not as bright as sunlight.
Ultraviolet light, full-spectrum light, tanning lamps,
and heat lamps should not be used. You place the light box at a specified
distance from you on a desk or in front of a chair and use it while you read,
eat breakfast, or work at a computer. Light therapy is usually prescribed for
30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the intensity of the light used and on
whether you are starting out or are using it to maintain a response.
may take as little as 3 to 5 days or up to 2 weeks before you respond to light
therapy. Stopping light therapy might cause you to relapse back into
Light therapy may work by
resetting your "biological clock" (circadian rhythms), which controls sleeping and waking.
If you have
eye problems or you take medicines that make you light-sensitive, ask your
doctor about whether light therapy is safe for you. Before you start treatment,
tell your doctor about any other conditions you have and about the medicines
you are taking.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder: Using Light Therapy
effectively treat episodes of depression in people who have seasonal affective
disorder. You may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks of taking
antidepressant medicine. But it can take as many as 6 to 8 weeks to see more
improvement. If you have questions or concerns about your medicines, or if you
do not notice any improvement by 3 weeks, talk to your doctor. Antidepressants
can be used along with light therapy or alone. The
most common antidepressants used to treat people with seasonal affective
SSRIs are usually the first type of antidepressants
given to treat SAD. SSRIs often have less serious side effects than other
antidepressants. All antidepressant medicines are started at low doses and
increased gradually. When stopped, they should be decreased gradually to avoid
General side effects of antidepressant medicines
- Nausea, loss of appetite, or
- Anxiety or nervousness.
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of sexual desire or
Bupropion can cause dry mouth. Bupropion should not be
taken if you have seizures, severe problems with eating, or an
eating disorder, because it can cause seizures.
- Depression: Dealing With Medicine Side Effects
- Depression: Taking Antidepressants Safely
Counseling, such as
interpersonal therapy and
cognitive-behavioral therapy, may help with your
treatment for SAD. You may choose individual counseling, participate in group
counseling, or seek
family therapy. During
counseling, you will learn about SAD, ways to handle
the symptoms, and how to help prevent future depressive episodes. If you have
had SAD for a long time, your family members may also benefit from