It’s not uncommon to suffer from issues like fatigue, mood swings, and even mild depression during the long, dark, and cold winter months. When the sun is hiding, you’re suffering from vitamin D deficiency, and you can’t engage in the fun, outdoor activities you normally enjoy, it’s only natural to fall into a funk. But for some people, the symptoms go far beyond the average urge to hibernate. Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a much more serious form of winter depression that can be debilitating and even life threatening if left untreated. However, there are several ways to address this condition and get back to a better state of health and well-being.
Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by more than just irritability, moodiness, and fatigue. Those who suffer from this disorder may experience ongoing depression, low energy, unusual sleep patterns (too much or too little), withdrawal from loved ones and normal activities, feelings of hopelessness, and even suicidal thoughts. So it’s definitely more than just a case of the blues. The first step to treating this condition is to talk to a professional. If you start to feel down in the fall and the condition gets progressively worse throughout the winter, you need to be diagnosed so that you can begin a course of treatment.
There are several possible treatment options to explore when you’re diagnosed with SAD. One of the most common forms of treatment is light therapy, or phototherapy. This simple remedy consists of setting up a light box in the home that mimics the appearance and effect of natural light. Your doctor will tell you how long to expose yourself to this light daily in order to reverse the effects that have occurred because of the winter weather. This is often the first treatment recommended for seasonal affective disorder, but it is not the only option, so if light therapy isn’t enough, there are other things you can try.
As with any type of depression, prescription medication may help. In this case your physician may refer you to a psychiatrist so that you can discuss your disorder with a qualified professional and get an appropriate prescription for antidepressant medication. Whereas light therapy can show improvement within just a few days, though, antidepressants could take weeks or even months to begin working, and there is some trial and error involved in getting the right drug and the right dosage. In addition, many antidepressants come with a host of potential side effects. Still, it might be worth going through the process if other treatments for SAD don’t work for you.
You can also take a holistic approach to treating your seasonal affective disorder. A combination of diet, exercise, a brightly lit home interior, vitamin supplements, and homeopathic treatments like massage or acupuncture could help you to improve your mental state. Exercise, in particular, can boost endorphins and improve your mood. And a balanced diet can ensure that you get proper nutrients. Along with a light box from Alaska Northern Lights, these changes may be enough to treat your winter depression. But just in case, you should talk to a qualified doctor to better understand your condition and the treatment options available to you.