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    Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) -- Diagnosis and Treatment

    What Are the Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder? continued...

    In extremely severe cases of depression, especially when the patient is suicidal or has psychotic symptoms (delusions or hallucinations), electroconvulsive therapy may be used, especially when other kinds of added medicines (such as antipsychotic drugs) may not be fully or rapidly effective. In this treatment method, a finely controlled electrical charge is used to induce a brief seizure in the brain, which can result in improvement of depression symptoms.

    The role of other forms of brain/nerve stimulations in the treatment of SAD -- such as vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) or Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) -- has not been well established.

    Home Environment to Help Seasonal Affective Disorder

    • Take a walk at lunchtime when the sun is high. Be outdoors as often as you can.
    • Exercise as much as you are able.
    • Take winter vacations in places with long days.
    • Increase the natural light in your home by trimming low-lying branches near the house and hedges around windows.
    • Paint your walls with lighter colors.
    • Keep warm and enjoy the fun aspects of winter - such as wood fires, books, music.
    • If all else fails and you can manage it, spend time in a sunnier climate.

    It is critically important to have early detection and treatment of any depression, including but not limited to SAD. Untreated depression can cause:

    • Impairment of quality of life
    • Loss of job, productivity
    • Breakdown of family, marriage, and/or relationships
    • Substance abuse and its complications
    • Suicide
    • Violent behavior (rare)

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on February 27, 2015
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