Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Home treatment is very important in the treatment of Reference seasonal affective disorder Opens New Window (SAD). Home treatment for an episode of depression may include a combination of the following:
Being physically active during the daytime, especially first thing in the morning during winter, may help improve your energy level and relieve Reference depression Opens New Window. Moderate exercises like walking, stationary cycling, and swimming are a good way to start an exercise routine.
Experts say to do either of these things to get and stay healthy:Reference 1
- Reference Moderate activity Opens New Window for at least 2½ hours a week. One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. Moderate activity means things like brisk walking, brisk cycling, or shooting baskets. But any activities—including daily chores—that raise your Reference heart rate Opens New Window can be included. You notice your heart beating faster with this kind of activity.
- Reference Vigorous activity Opens New Window for at least 1¼ hours a week. One way to do this is to be active 25 minutes a day, at least 3 days a week. Vigorous activity means things like jogging, cycling fast, or cross-country skiing. You breathe rapidly and your heart beats much faster with this kind of activity.
It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week. You can choose to do one or both types of activity.
Moderate activity is safe for most people, but it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.
Also try to do Reference exercises to strengthen muscles Opens New Window at least 2 times each week. Examples include weight training or stair climbing on 2 or more days that are not in a row. For best results, use a resistance (weight) that gives you muscle fatigue after 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise.
The following complementary treatments may be helpful in treating symptoms of SAD, although there currently is not enough scientific evidence to prove their usefulness.
- An herb called Reference St. John's wort may help ease depression symptoms.
- Reference Melatonin is a hormone that may help regulate your biological clock (Reference circadian rhythms Opens New Window). But you need to take a very low dose at a specific time of the day.
Be sure to check with your doctor before you try these complementary therapies, because they may interact with other medicines you are taking.
You should not take St. John's wort if you are taking other antidepressants. Also, St. John's wort may cause light sensitivity. If you are using light therapy, you may want to discuss with your doctor whether St. John's wort is right for you in the treatment of SAD.
Research on the effectiveness of other SAD treatments is ongoing.
Advice for caregivers
Sometimes family members and friends are not sure how to help someone who has seasonal affective disorder. It may help to:
- Spend time with your loved one even though he or she may be withdrawn or quiet.
- Offer to help with daily tasks that temporarily may be too difficult to do alone. But it is important that you do not enable the person to remain depressed by taking over all of his or her daily responsibilities.
- Take a walk or do some other type of exercise activity together. Getting out first thing in the morning for a walk may be helpful.
- Help the person to stay with the prescribed treatment plan.
For more information on helping someone with SAD or depression, see:
- Reference Reference Depression: Helping Someone Get Treatment.
- Reference Reference Depression: Supporting Someone Who Is Depressed.
Unfortunately, many people don't seek treatment for mental health problems. You may not seek treatment because you think the symptoms are not bad enough or that you can work things out on your own. But getting treatment is important.
If you need help deciding whether to see your doctor, see Reference some reasons why people don't get help and how to overcome them.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference June 20, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Alfred Lewy, MD, PhD - Psychiatry