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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - Topic Overview

Light therapy continued...

Light boxes use fluorescent lights that are brighter than indoor lights but not as bright as sunlight. Ultraviolet lights, full-spectrum lights, tanning lamps, and heat lamps should not be used.

Light therapy is usually prescribed for 30 minutes to 2 hours a day. The amount of time depends on how strong the light is and on whether you are starting out or are have been using it for a while.

You may start to feel better within a week or so after you start light therapy. But you need to stay with it and use it every day until the season changes. If you don't, your depression could come back.

Antidepressants

Antidepressant medicines may help people who have SAD. They may be used alone or with light therapy. The most common ones prescribed for SAD include:

If your doctor prescribes an antidepressant, be sure you take it the way you're told to. Do not stop taking it suddenly. This could cause side effects or make your depression worse. When you are ready to stop, your doctor can help you slowly reduce the dose to prevent problems.

Counseling

Counseling may also help. Some types of counseling, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy, can help you learn more about SAD, how to manage your symptoms, and how to help prevent future episodes..

What can you do on your own to feel better?

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Getting more sunlight may help too, so try to get outside to exercise when the sun is shining. Being active during the daytime, especially early in the day, may help you have more energy and feel less depressed.

Moderate exercise is safe for most people. But it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.

Some people try complementary treatments to help with SAD. If you want to use them, be sure to check with your doctor first. They may interact with other medicines or treatments.

  • St. John's wort is an herb that may help ease depression symptoms. But you should not take it if you are taking antidepressant medicine. It may make you sensitive to light, so it may not be recommended if you are using light therapy.
  • Melatonin is a hormone that may help regulate your biological clock. But you need to take a very low dose at a specific time of the day.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 14, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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