Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) takes its toll on about 5 percent of U.S. adults, according to the American Psychiatric Association. This form of seasonal depression can cause a number of challenging symptoms, such as fatigue (often despite getting more sleep), feelings of sadness or depression, changes in eating habits, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and change in sleep, especially sleeping too much. And during the holidays, all of that can be compounded by stress and lack of daylight during the shortest days of the year. If you’re experiencing signs and symptoms of SAD, speak with your healthcare provider about some of these options below to help you cope.
If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You also can text the Crisis Text Line (HELLO to 741741) or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website for help. For a local resource, you can call the Bozeman Help Center at (406) 586-3333. Even if it’s not an immediate emergency, don’t delay in reaching out to someone you trust to talk about it. Better yet, call (406) 222-1111 ext. 7003 to schedule an appointment with a behavioral health therapist.
Studies have shown that exposure to specific wavelengths of UV light can help treat SAD. These lightboxes are more commonly known as “happy lights,” and using one in the morning may help increase your energy levels and reduce other symptoms. Studies indicate that they work by lowering melatonin (which makes you sleepy) and increasing serotonin (which gives you energy). Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend trying one to see if it works for you.
Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation may ease symptoms by promoting mindfulness. Making time in your day to move your body and take some deep, calming breaths can help some people manage symptoms. You can find free meditations and video yoga classes online. Spending as little as ten minutes each day to start is a good way to see if this method can help.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy—also known as talk therapy—can help SAD sufferers manage their symptoms as well. Talking with a professional therapist can assist as you work through what you’re feeling. Having someone take a look at your situation can be a valuable aid in moving forward with other treatments if need be.
Some study results indicate that taking vitamin D can be a cost-effective way to treat some forms of depression, like SAD. Ask your doctor if taking vitamin D supplements might be an excellent first step for you when treating symptoms, since many people aren’t able to get enough in their diet and lifestyle. Your doctor might also recommend bloodwork to see if you have any other vitamin deficiencies to address.
When symptoms of SAD affect your mental health and ability to live your life enjoyably, taking the right medication may help you manage symptoms. Talk with your doctor to figure out if this may be a good option for you. The most common type of antidepressants used to treat SAD are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), but you can work with your doctor to find the medication that will work best in your case.
If you have questions about Seasonal Affective Disorder, including its symptoms and treatment, CHP's clinical staff can help. Call (406) 222-1111 ext. 7003 to schedule an appointment with a behavioral health therapist.