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How To Prevent Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder - Carol Evenson - Blog

How To Prevent Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression with symptoms that manifest during certain times of the year. For this reason, it is also sometimes referred to as seasonal depression. While there is a summer variant of SAD, most people experience symptoms during the winter. SAD is relatively common, and since symptoms can range from mild to severe, it may be more prevalent than doctors and researchers know for sure.

Seasonal affective disorder is something that you either have or you don't; there is no way to prevent getting it. However, there are many ways to lessen the symptoms of SAD. If you track when your symptoms begin and start treatment early, it may eventually be possible for you to prevent them altogether.

Light therapy

Seasonal affective disorder is still very mysterious, and the underlying cause is not fully understood. However, there does seem to be a connection between the availability of light during certain times of the year and its effect on the body's circadian rhythm, a process that tells your body when it is time to sleep, wake, eat, etc. For most people with SAD, the lack of light during the winter months tends to make the body's internal clock go haywire. As a result, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue and difficulty waking.

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In the distant past, before there was electric light, there was little that anyone could do to replace the sunlight that was lacking. Candles are not bright enough, and even the usual household lighting used today, such as incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs or sunlamps used for growing plants, are not sufficient.


Fortunately, however, technology has advanced in significant ways to produce things like GPS fleet tracking and LED lighting that were unthinkable just a few decades ago. Such advancements also include light therapy boxes or lamps that can ease symptoms of SAD by closely mimicking the sunlight and thus help to keep the circadian rhythms regular and orderly. Also known as phototherapy, light therapy is often the first line of treatment recommended for seasonal affective disorder.


If practiced regularly, e.g., at least three times a week for 30 minutes at a time, exercise can help with seasonal affective disorder in a number of ways. It stimulates the production of endorphins, which are body chemicals that help ease stress, relieve pain, and elevate your mood. When you exercise regularly, you may lose weight or become more fit as a result, which can generally help you to feel better about yourself.

Mental health experts often recommend the practice of techniques that improve the mind-body connection. Tai chi or yoga are mind-body techniques that incorporate physical movement and may therefore yield the general benefits of exercise as well.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Seasonal affective disorder is recognized as a type of depression. Therefore, psychotherapy, i.e., talk therapy, can sometimes be effective at treating symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a specific method designed specifically to teach you how to manage your stress and cope in healthy ways. Seasonal affective disorder may cause or exacerbate negative behaviors or thoughts. CBT can help you identify these thoughts and teach you how to change them.


Medications such as antidepressants are usually not the first treatment recommended to treat seasonal affective disorder. However, if symptoms do not go away with other treatments or are severe in nature, your doctor may decide that prescription medications are indicated. As with any prescription medication, you should follow the instructions for taking antidepressants provided by your doctor. For example, to prevent any symptoms from arising, your doctor may tell you to start taking the medications prior to the time that they usually begin and continuing past the time that they usually cease. Stopping the medication prematurely may cause symptoms to come back.

In the past, people with seasonal affective disorder were told that they just had the winter blahs. Many did not seek treatment for symptoms that they knew would subside within a few months. SAD is better understood now and is recognized as a real mental health condition with effective treatment options. With the exception of medications, the treatments suggested here have minimal to no negative side effects.

Publish Date: February 22, 2021 11:41 PM

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