Treating and Preventing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Some adults suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). What is SAD? What are the symptoms? And how is it treated?

What is seasonal affective disorder?

SAD is a type of depression that happens during certain times of the year. Most often fall or winter seem to trigger the symptoms. The hypothesis is that shorter days with less light trigger a chemical change in the brain. There have also been studies that suggest an increased level of melatonin, which your body increases in producing when it’s dark, could be a culprit of SAD.

Adults over the age of 20 are the most likely to suffer from this condition. Women have a higher chance of being impacted by this type of depression.

What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?

If you suffer from depression during the winter and then when spring rolls around, you are back to your normal self, then you might be struggling with seasonal affective disorder. This is more than being in a funk. It’s a major depression disorder. Some of the symptoms you might struggle with include:

  • Being sad or depressed most days for most of the day
  • Losing interest in activities you typically love and enjoy
  • Struggling with getting out of bed; sleeping too much
  • Having low energy
  • Gaining weight which could be linked to craving carbohydrates or overeating
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Difficulty kicking feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
  • Having suicidal thoughts or desires of not wanting to live.

How is seasonal affective disorder treated?

If you know you are prone to depression in the fall and winter, now is the time to be looking into treatments. Get ahead of this issue so that you don’t struggle for the next few months. Effective treatments include:

  • Lightbox therapy. These lights mimic outdoor light by emitting a broad-spectrum UV light. Sitting in front of this light for just 30 minutes a day can majorly alter your quality of life. Those who reap the greatest benefits use the light early in the day with the unit 12-24 inches away. The recommended light intensity is typically 10,000 lux.
  • Spend time outside. On sunny days, try to get outside to get the natural light exposure. Just like with a lightbox, strive for the light exposure earlier in the day to reap the most benefits. If you work during the day, try to move your workspace to an area near a window.
  • Medication can provide relief. The antidepressant medication bupropion has been approved by the FDA for SAD prevention. Starting to take the medication in early fall just before symptoms start to set in will help you achieve the greatest benefit.
  • Psychotherapy. This therapy may be able to help you address any distorted views brought on by your brain’s chemical imbalance during this time. You can identify things that cause you stress and build a healthy plan to combat these struggles.

If you or a loved one suffers from seasonal depression each winter, get help. Reach out to your medical team to build a plan that will help you avoid these winter blues.

Our local pharmacies are here to support you and your family as you make strides to maintain and improve your health. The staff and owners are part of the community and are invested in your success. If you are currently not with a small pharmacy, now is the time for you to check out one of our local pharmacies. College Park Pharmacy, Howard’s Pharmacy, Mooney’s Pharmacy, and P&S Pharmacy are small businesses here in East Tennessee who pride themselves in customer service. They want to gain your trust and build a relationship with you. We strive to put patients first and help you improve your health. Please come by and see us.