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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Conventional and Alternative Treatments  

 

SAD is, indeed, quite easily treated once itís recognized. The medical community has three ways it typically manages this variety of depression.

The first way is through antidepressant medications or other 

psychiatric medications.  This is usually the treatment of choice if your symptoms are severe.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the extended release tablets Wellbutrin XL Ė bupropion specifically for individuals affected with SAD. Your health care practitioner may prescribe you other antidepressant drugs, though. 

Other antidepressants your health care practitioner may prescribe for this type of depressive episode include paroxetine (sold as Paxil), sertraline (sold as Zoloft), fluoxetine (sold under the name brands of Prozac and Sarafem) as well as venlafaxine (sold as Effexor).

Depending on your individual symptoms, your health care physician may begin treatment even before your symptoms actually surface at the beginning of the season. He may also recommend that you continue to take this medication once your seasonal symptoms end.  The theory to this type of treatment is to prevent a worsening of the symptoms the following year.

Once you begin your treatment begins Ė regardless of the type of antidepressant youíre taking -- the medications may take a minimum of several weeks to provide you with the full benefits.  Similarly, donít be disappointed if the first medication doesnít work as well as your health care physician initially thought.  It may be that youíll have to try several antidepressants before you and your health care physician hit upon the one that works for you.

Before you agree to take any of these antidepressant medications, though, be sure you are fully aware of the adverse side effects of these drugs.  For many people, these side effects are even worse than experiencing the depression itself.  In fact, many antidepressants now carry the strongest of FDA warnings: the black box warning.  Some teenagers and young adults are at higher risk of committing suicide when taking these medications.

If youíre not quite sure that strong prescription antidepressants are the correct route for you, there are two other conventional treatments.  The first is psychotherapy. SAD is indeed a disorder that is related to the biochemical processes of your body, your mood and your behavior are also nonetheless contributing factors to the severity of your symptoms. 

Undergoing psychotherapy may help you identify and ultimately alter your negative thoughts and behaviors.  While these arenít the primary causes of your depression, managing these aspects of your problem may provide you additional relief.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Alternative Treatments

If the lack of exposure to sunlight can cause you to be depressed, then providing simulated sunlight should help alleviate the depression.  It certainly seems logical.  And, in fact, itís not only logical, but effective.

If you suffer from SAD, you may want to ask your health care practitioner about light therapy.  Many in the health care field consider light therapy the first line of defense in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder.

This form of therapy hasnít been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.  The organization has not seen enough definitive evidence on its effectiveness in clinical trials. 

When you undergo this type of treatment, youíll sit in front of a 10,000 lux light box containing plastic-covered white fluorescent light tubes.  The plastic screen blocks any exposure to ultraviolet rays.  When this therapy was originally devised, it was thought that only full-spectrum lighting would alleviate the symptoms of SAD.  Full spectrum lighting mimics sunlight, providing for every spectrum of the sunís rays.  In the 25-some years that light therapy has been used, itís been shown that full spectrum is not necessary.

Most experts in the field of light therapy recommend about 90 minutes of exposure daily, for optimum results.  This therapy normally continues until the end of winter. Most people who use this method say that they can feel its beneficial effects in as little as two to four days. In others, it takes up to several weeks.  Discontinue using light therapy if, after a month to six weeks, you discover no improvement in your symptoms. 

Light therapy is especially recommended for those people who are searching for an alternative to the use of antidepressants. For more information on this therapy, as well as some sources of light therapy boxes go to http://www.clevelandclinic.org/health/health-info/
docs/1400/1484.asp?index=6412
.

If you prefer an herbal supplement, you may want to make St. Johnís Wort one of your first choices. Its ability to lift a depressed mood is legendary among herbalists. According to the research performed on this plant, it works by stimulating the neurotransmitters involved in creating the depression in the first place.  It is especially effective at boosting serotonin levels in the brain, which greatly influences your emotions.

St. Johnís Wort is used widely in Germany which has a rich history of herbal use.  St. Johnís Wort is so trusted, in fact, that approximately 30 million prescriptions are written for it as a natural antidepressant yearly. If you plan to use this herb, itís best that you consult with your local professional herbalist to discover the proper serving for your individual symptoms.  Also keep in mind you should also consult with your personal health care practitioner before you start using St. Johnís Wort not only to obtain his advice, but also to ensure that this herb wonít interfere with any medications youíre currently taking.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Developing coping skills

While there are antidepressants, psychotherapy, light therapy and herbal remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms of SAD, you can also be an active part of your treatment by taking additional action. Listed below are a just a few ways you can help to lessen the severity of the depression. 

Exercise.  Youíve heard it before; exercise is a great cure for depression.  And it really doesnít matter what the cause of the depression is. Exercise helps relieve both stress and anxiety Ė both of which can actually increase your SAD symptoms.  But there are added benefits as well.  Getting fit or maintaining your health level of fitness can contribute to your sense of self esteem.  This can do wonders to improve your mood.

Learn how to manage your stress. If you havenít learned how to manage the stresses of your life, they certainly can soon become overwhelming and cause depression. Many people turn to food or switch their brains to unhealthy thoughts and negative behaviors in a misdirected attempt to cope with their stress.  It doesnít work.

Get out more with friends.  This suggestion may not sound like what you really feel like doing when youíre depressed, but it does help. Donít isolate yourself from the company of people who you like. Not only will getting out of the house and doing something fun help take your mind off your troubles, but itíll provide you some additional moral support. 

Open your window blinds.  Let the sun shine in!  Sure, thatís not that much of it in the winter, but make sure you maximize your exposure while you can.  Open the blinds on sunny days. If you can, add skylights to your house.  If you house is shaded by trees, trim some of the branches to allow more light to enter.

Enjoy the outdoors.  Even in the wintertime, there are times when you can go outside and enjoy the day.  Youíll especially want to take a walk on a sunny winter day.  If itís not too cold, try eating your lunch in the park. Or just spend some quiet time outside basking in the sun.

Care for yourself. This may seem obvious, but it needs to be said.  Donít let the depression overwhelm you.  In spite of your feelings, continue to take care of yourself.  Make sure you get enough rest, eat healthy and take some time out for yourself Ė just to relax.  In fact, this is the best time to pamper yourself.  Have you ever experienced the soothing effects of a massage?  Youíd be amazed how it can improve your mood Ė and relieve stress at the same time! Try to avoid alcohol during this time Ė itíll just make you more depressed.

Take a winter vacation. If you can afford the cost and the time, take a trip!  If youíve been plagued by SAD previously, then you might want to consider planning your vacation in the winter.  Pick a nice, warm, sunny climate.  Thereís an added bonus to this:  winter rates Ė from airline tickets to hotel rooms Ė are usually much less expensive.

Follow your treatments. Whatever your health care practitioner directs, keep on doing it. If youíre taking prescription medications, continue to take them.  If youíre taking some form of psychotherapy, be sure to keep all your scheduled appointments.

 


Note: Some statements in this article may not be approved by the FDA. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice.

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