How can I treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

How can I treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), don't feel as though you can't get the support you need. Like all forms of depression, SAD can be tricky to deal with on your own.

Because symptoms often include feelings of helplessness and indecision, finding a way to start feeling normal again can be tricky. Nevertheless, help is at hand - starting with turning to your doctor for support.

Should SAD be treated like other forms of depression?

According to guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), SAD should be dealt with in the same way as any other form of depression.

With this in mind, the NHS recommends talking treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy. Similarly, antidepressants could also provide relief.

However, you should consult your GP before going down either of these routes, as they will want to look at your symptoms first before deciding what the best course of action is.

Can light therapy make SAD better?

Although light therapy is a popular approach when it comes to SAD treatment, there is mixed evidence over if it can actually make a difference.

In theory, it works by having a person sit in front of a device that simulates sunlight that you would otherwise not be exposed to in the winter months. This encourages your brain to produce less melatonin and more serotonin, which doesn't make you feel as sleepy and boosts your mood respectively.

The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association suggests sitting in front of one of these 'light boxes' for between 30 minutes and one hour every day, starting from early autumn before symptoms appear.

That said, you should consult a health professional if you are considering using light therapy, as it is not suitable for some people, including:

  • Those whose eyes are sensitive to light
  • Those who have skin cancer
  • Those who are taking certain medication that can increase light sensitivity

How can I manage SAD symptoms?

Mental health charity Mind suggests that people who are aware they are prone to experiencing SAD can take action to limit the effect it has on them.

For example, one bit of advice the organisation offers is to make the most of natural sunlight by spending as much time as you can during the day outdoors. Similarly, decorating the house in pale colours that easily reflect light is another possibility.

Mind also recommends avoiding stressful activity - for example, if you're thinking of moving home then this should be done during the summer if possible. In the same way, you can use the summer to plan ahead for particularly stressful times in the winter, like Christmas shopping, for instance.

Managing your diet and exercising regularly can also have a positive impact. But above all, don't bottle your feelings up and keep your problems to yourself.

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