How to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is a type of depression that is typically associated with the fall and winter months. There are many theories as to why depression can become more prominent during the colder months, but lack of sunshine, decreased exercise and social isolation have been suggested as primary causes. This article will help you to understand SAD and how to treat it with and without medication.

Things You'll Need

  • Information about SAD
  • Consultation with your primary care provider or therapist
  • Willingness to adhere to a treatment program
  • Supportive family, friends and coworkers


  1. Look for the major symptoms of SAD, which include:

    • A change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods
    • Weight gain
    • A drop in energy level
    • Fatigue
    • A tendency to oversleep or under sleep
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Irritability and anxiety
    • Increased sensitivity to social rejection
    • Avoidance of social situations
    • A loss of interest in the activities you used to enjoy

  2. Get some good old-fashioned sunshine. This can do a world of good for depression. Some specialists also recommend purchasing a SAD light box. Light boxes use a special level of light, whereas ultraviolet light, full-spectrum light, tanning lamps and heat lamps should not be used to treat SAD.

  3. Engage in vigorous exercise, such as treadmill running, three times a week. Recent studies have shown that exercise can greatly improve the symptoms of SAD.

  4. Consult with your primary care practitioner or therapist regarding the use of antidepressant medications, since SAD may have a biological component that requires medication as part of the treatment plan. Medications can be a valuable tool against depression, and there are many available today that have few side effects.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always be honest about your feelings of depression. Do not simply think they will disappear if you ignore them.
  • Depression is a serious medical condition that is nothing to be ashamed of and may require treatment.
  • Depression has a biological component that may require medication as part of the treatment. Do not ignore this fact.
  • As with any medical condition, only a licensed medical practitioner can diagnose and treat depression. This article is for informational purposes only.


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