What Are the Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

What Are the Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can struggle with depression when the temperature and light drops, and this can be a serious problem. This form of depression is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD can interfere with your everyday life, but there are treatments available to help with this form of depression.

If you’d like to consider self-care tips that you can try at home, read our article, ‘7 Self-Care Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder’.

What Treatments Are Available?

The first step towards helping yourself is to talk to your doctor. If you’re diagnosed with SAD, this’ll be based on whether your symptoms follow a seasonal pattern, usually for two or more years. It doesn’t depend on the specific season or time of year you’re affected. For more information about symptoms and causes, read our article, ‘What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Talking Therapies

Talking to someone is a great help when you’re feeling down or depressed. Your doctor may suggest trying talking therapies, which can include:

  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT): based on the idea that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions are interconnected. CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts.1
  • Group-based CBT
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): based on the idea that personal relationships are at the centre of psychological problems. IPT is a form of therapy that focuses on you and your relationships with other people.2
  • Behavioural Activation (BA): based on the idea that depression is a result of avoiding certain activities or situations. BA encourages you to approach activities that you’d rather avoid, and you’d define goals and ‘activity schedules’ with your therapist.3

Your doctor can discuss the different options available in your area, and they’ll help you find the right kind of talking treatment for you.

Medication

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor might prescribe antidepressants, either on their own or along with a talking treatment. Different people find different medications more helpful, so talk to your doctor about your options. You might find that you need to try a few different types of medication before you find the one that works for you.

Light Therapy

As lack of daylight triggers SAD, you could consider light therapy as a treatment. Certain lights have been designed to mimic daylight, which suppresses the release of melatonin. You won’t feel as sleepy during the day, and these lights trigger the release of brain chemicals that are linked to a more upbeat mood. Our SAD Therapy Light from Lifemax combats the effects of SAD and helps to improve your mental wellbeing during the darker months. You can also check out our Wake Up to Daylight light from Lumie, an alarm clock that recreates a gradual sunrise in the morning, so you wake up with light.

Light therapy won’t cure Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it may ease the symptoms, increase your energy levels, and help you feel better.4

To get the most out of light therapy, you should:

Get the right light. Talk to your doctor before starting light therapy. If you do, you’ll get the proper brightness, the right kind of light, and the style and features that make it more convenient for you to use.

Be consistent. Stick to a daily routine of light therapy sessions to help ensure that you maintain improvements over time. If you can’t do light therapy every day, take a day or two off, but monitor your mood and other symptoms. To get the full effect, you may have to find a way to fit light therapy into every day.

Track the timing. If you interrupt light therapy during the winter months, or stop too soon in spring when you’re improving, your symptoms could return. Keep track of when you start light therapy in the darker months, and when you stop in the spring. This way, you’ll know when to start and end your light therapy the following year.

While some people find light therapy helpful in easing SAD’s symptoms, it doesn’t work for everyone. If you don’t find it helpful, discuss alternative treatments with your doctor.

What If You Don’t Feel Better?

Make sure that you see your doctor regularly so that they know how you’re doing, and how well any treatments are working for you. Different things work for different people, especially as SAD affects people differently. If a particular treatment isn’t working for you, let your doctor know so that they can offer you an alternative.

What Are the Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can...

7 Self-Care Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder

We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can...

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can...

7 Self-Care Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder

7 Self-Care Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder

We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can struggle with depression when the temperature and light drops, and this can be a serious problem. This form of depression is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD can interfere with your everyday life, but there are ways for you to help ease symptoms for a happier life. We’ve gathered some self-care tips to help yourself feel better.

You can read more about Seasonal Affective Disorder, symptoms, and causes in our article, ‘What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

1) Let the Light Shine

As SAD is triggered by a lack of sunlight during winter months, exposing yourself to light is a great way to help ease the symptoms. Sometimes, people with depression can struggle to motivate themselves to go outside. However, trying to get direct sunlight will help boost your mood. If you can’t go outdoors, you can also try sitting by a window during the day. Open the curtains as soon as you get up in the morning – the earlier you expose yourself to light, the more beneficial it’ll be.

If you don’t notice much change in how you feel, you could consider light therapy. Certain lights have been designed to mimic daylight, which suppresses the release of melatonin. You won’t feel as sleepy during the day, and these lights trigger the release of brain chemicals that are linked to a more upbeat mood. Our SAD Therapy Light from Lifemax combats the effects of SAD and helps to improve your mental wellbeing during the darker months. You can also check out our Wake Up to Daylight light from Lumie, an alarm clock that recreates a gradual sunrise in the morning, so you wake up with light.

2) Have A Healthy Diet

Comfort eating, or over-eating, can be tempting when we feel down. However, simply including fruit and vegetables in your comfort meals can give you more energy and will boost your mood. Winter vegetables, like carrots, parsnips, and turnip, can be roasted, mashed, or made into soup for a comforting, warming winter meal. Plus, classic stews and casseroles are great options if they’re made with lean meat and plenty of vegetables. With these choices, you can still enjoy the hearty and fulfilling sensations that you want – without eating excessive calories. Just make sure to avoid eating heavy meals a couple of hours before you go to bed.

3) Stay Active

Don’t hibernate or stay cooped up inside. Spending time outdoors is good for your mental health, will improve your self-esteem, and will reduce stress and anxiety. Throw on your scarf, woolly hat, and gloves, and enjoy winter activities, like ice-skating, building a snowman, or going for a walk in the snow. Snowball fights are also great ways to boost your mood, and they’re a fun way to socialise with family and friends. Meet up with your friends for a trip to the cinema or a museum if you don’t want to spend too long in the cold. Exercising is also good for both your physical and mental health – even gentle exercise, like yoga, swimming, or walking. However, avoid exercising in the evening as this will make it harder for you to sleep at night. You can read more about how exercise helps improve your sleep in our article, ‘Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep’.

4) Keep A Diary

You could find it helpful to keep a note of your symptoms and when they start – this is a good way to find out what triggers your low mood. If you keep track of your symptoms, you’ll be able to notice patterns. You could also keep track of your sleep patterns, as poor sleep could be contributing to low moods, too. You can do this by keeping a sleep diary or consider investing in our SleepExpert Sleep Sensor from Beurer, which monitors your sleeping habits. You’ll be able to identify sleep patterns and take informed measures to improve any bad habits. Read more about its benefits here. You should also make a note of things that feel helpful for you, or anything that makes you feel worse. This’ll be a great help, as SAD affects you at some times in the year and not others, so you might forget the details the next time you’re feeling your mood shift.

5) Find Ways to Relax

Managing your stress levels will help to alleviate symptoms of SAD and depression. This’ll make it easier for you to fall asleep, too. You could try some relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises and meditation. These will make you focus on your breathing, which is a useful technique when you want to slow down your thoughts and relax. Read more about meditation here. You could also try practising mindfulness, which makes you focus on the moment. This is a great advantage for when you need to quiet any anxious thoughts. Read more about its benefits, and how to practice it, here.

6) Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

While you may want to drink alcohol to drown out any troubling thoughts, it can actually make you feel worse. Alcohol will make you feel sleepy, but it’ll keep you from getting the deep sleep that you need. It’ll also wake you up in the middle of the night, and you could struggle to get back to sleep. This’ll disrupt your sleep, so you’re more tired and irritable during the day. This won’t help your mood. Caffeine should also be avoided during the afternoon and evening. While the first cup of coffee can increase your alertness in the morning, drinking coffee during the day will make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. This leads to poor sleep, which leads to a low mood during the day.

7) Talk to Your Doctor

If you’re struggling with SAD and depression, consult your doctor. Your doctor will be able to determine the best care for you, as everyone experiences SAD differently. They’ll also find out if there’s an underlying cause, like a pre-existing mental health problem. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, they may refer you to a psychologist or prescribe antidepressants. Going to a doctor will help to ease the symptoms of SAD, which will also help you sleep better at night. You can read more about treatments for SAD here.

What Are the Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can...

7 Self-Care Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder

We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can...

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can...

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can struggle with depression when the temperature and light drops, and this can be a serious problem. This form of depression is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or ‘seasonal depression’, is a type of depression that you can experience during autumn and winter, when light is limited and the temperature drops. While it’s common for people to feel affected by the weather, or to have times of the year when you feel more uncomfortable than others, SAD is not a general bad mood. Although people can often have low moods or energy levels during the colder months, SAD affects your day-to-day living and can last a long time. If you find that your sleeping pattern is disrupted, and that your low mood is interfering with your everyday life, this could be a sign that you have depression. If you feel like this at the same time every year, you may have SAD.

What Are the Symptoms?

If you have SAD, you might experience some of the symptoms below. However, remember that SAD is different for different people, and can vary from season to season.

  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Not wanting to see people
  • Sleep problems (sleeping less or more than usual/ difficulty falling asleep/ difficulty staying asleep/ difficulty getting up)
  • Feeling sad, low, tearful, guilty, or hopeless
  • Changes in your appetite (feeling hungrier/ eating more snacks/ comfort eating)
  • Being more prone to colds, infections, or other illnesses
  • Suicidal feelings

Also, if you have any pre-existing mental health problems or sleeping disorders, it’s possible that they’ll get worse when you’re affected by SAD.

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

While it’s known that seasonal changes can lead to seasonal depression, the exact causes of SAD aren’t clear. It’s generally thought that the things we know that can cause depression can also lead to SAD, and research has suggested that there a few things that could lead to SAD.1

1) The Effects of Light

When light hits the back of your eye, messages are sent to the part of your brain that controls sleep, appetite, temperature, mood, and activity.2 If there isn’t enough light, these functions can slow down and gradually stop. Some people seem to need more light than others in order to feel their best during the day, so these people are more likely to struggle with SAD. Find out about light therapy here.

2) Disrupted Body Clock

We all have an inner body clock, or a ‘circadian rhythm’, that tells us when we need to sleep or be awake. It’s influenced by daylight, which is why you’re up when the sun is up and you’re sleeping when the sun is down. One theory is that, if you experience SAD, your body clock isn’t working as it should. It could have slowed down due to the lack of daylight during colder months, and this leads to tiredness and depression.3 Find out more about your circadian rhythm here. Some researchers also think that a slower body clock is due to your sleep pattern, or ‘sleep phase’, starting at a different time. This is sometimes described as having a delayed sleep phase.4 You can find out more about this in our article, ‘What Is Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder?

3) High Melatonin Levels

When it’s dark, your brain produces a hormone called melatonin, which helps your body get ready for sleep. Melatonin is produced when it’s getting dark. Some people with SAD can produce much higher levels of melatonin during winter – this is also what happens to animals when they hibernate.5 The exact relationship between melatonin and SAD isn’t clear. However, researchers have found that, if you have high levels of melatonin, exposing yourself to bright light can help your melatonin levels drop to a more usual amount.6 Getting sufficient daylight to help SAD symptoms in winter is easier said than done, which is why people with SAD consider light therapy. You can read more about this in our article, ‘What Treatments Are There For SAD?’

4) Weather and Temperatures

Everyone has different experiences of particular seasons and types of weather. You might feel uncomfortable in hotter or colder temperatures. This could contribute to you developing depression, or any existing depression worsening, at these times of the year. Autumn and winter lead to lower temperatures and darker days, which can affect our sleep patterns. Read more about this in our articles, ‘Sleeping in Autumn’ and ‘Sleeping in Winter’.

If you have SAD, it’s important that you talk to your doctor as SAD is a form of depression, and you’ll need help to feel better. Your doctor can determine the best care for you, and can find out if there’s any underlying causes, like a pre-existing mental health problem. They can also refer you to a psychologist, or prescribe antidepressants. Don’t feel embarrassed or scared to approach your doctor – it’s important that you get the right care for you. You can find out more about treatments available in our article, ‘What Are the Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

What Are the Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can...

7 Self-Care Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder

We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can...

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can...