Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Counseling
If you have recurrent feelings of depression that coincide with the change of seasons, you may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Symptoms of SAD usually begin in October or November and subside in March or April.
Symptoms of SAD
- Social withdrawal
- Decreased interest in pleasurable activities
- Carbohydrate cravings
- Daytime fatigue
- Excessive sleepiness
- Weight gain
- Strong desire to "hibernate"
- Decreased libido
- Increased energy and remission of symptoms in the Spring
Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
There is substantial evidence that CBT is more effective than light therapy for the long term treatment of SAD. People who received light therapy alone had a higher level of relapse than people who received both counseling and light therapy.
Although exposure to light can elevate energy and mood, many people have ingrained negative thoughts and behaviors that negate the positive effects of light therapy and reinforce a downward spiral of depression. Learning strategies to change your thoughts can provide longer lasting relief, making you less vulnerable to the change of seasons.
Phototherapy and Medication
For many people a combination of light therapy, counseling, or medication can be beneficial. You should consult with a medical or mental health professional to identify the best treatment combination for you.
If you have mild symptoms, increased daily exposure to sunlight can help alleviate symptoms. Taking a 20 minute walk outside or sitting by a window at home or work is helpful. Light stimulates the production of mood enhancing, energizing chemicals and hormones.
Working with a mental health professional can be very beneficial while using light therapy since you may need guidance to regulate its use and application. Like medication, the timing, intensity, and frequency of the light may need some adjustment according to your specific chemistry and symptoms. Furthermore, after prolonged use, you may even begin to "taper" the frequency or reduce the amount of time you sit in front of the light box. Working with a professional can help you maximize the benefits of phototherapy.
Clinically Proven Therapeutic Light Boxes
You can purchase light boxes from the Sunbox Company, the Center for Environmental Therapeutics, and Apollo Health. These light boxes have been used in clinical and research settings.
A complimentary consultation is available to answer your questions and discuss the best solutions for you.