Seasonal Affective Disorder can be a life-altering experience, resulting in suicidal thoughts and behavior, social isolation, problems at school or work and substance abuse.
What can you do if you are suffering severe symptoms of SAD.
Make a trip to your family doctor or a mental health provider.
The Mayo Clinic recommends doing the following before your visit:
- Record your symptoms so you can describe exactly what's going on.
- Write down information about your depression patterns. When does it start? When is it worse?
- Make a note of any other mental or physical health problems you have. Both can affect moods.
- Write down any major stressors or recent life changes.
- Write down questions to ask.
Your doctor or mental health care provider may ask you to fill out a psychological questionnaire, undergo a physical exam and medical tests.
The following criteria must be met for a diagnosis of SAD: you've experienced depression and other symptoms for at least two consecutive years during the same season every year; the periods of depression have been followed by periods without depression; there are no other explanations for the changes in your mood or behavior.
Treatments for SAD may included light therapy, medications and psychotherapy.
Light therapy mimics outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brian chemicals linked to mood.
Medications commonly used to treat SAD include: Bupropion, Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac and several other antidepressants.
Your doctor may recommend starting antidepressant treatment before your symptoms typically begin each year.
Psychotherapy can help you identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse. You can also learn healthy ways to cope with SAD and manage stress.
Various alternative methods are also used to treat symptoms of SAD, including:
St. John's Wort, an herb traditionally used to treat a variety of problems, including depression.
Melatonin, a natural hormone that helps regulate mood.
Omega-3 fatty acids, supplements shown to relieve depression symptoms in some studies. Sources of Omega-3 include fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Flaxseed, flax oil and walnuts also contain Omega-3.