How to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder


Seasonal affective disorder, also commonly referred to as SAD, is a type of depression that typically occurs during the winter.

If you think that you may suffer from SAD, it is important to obtain a correct diagnosis and know that there are effective treatments that can help you overcome this mental health condition.

Definition of SAD

Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that typically occurs during the winter months, when there is less natural light from the sun. Once the spring and summer months come around, this form of depression tends to subside. While the condition may only affect a person once, in some people it can return year after year.

Treatment for SAD

In addition to prescription antidepressants and psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder also may benefit from light therapy. During light therapy, a person sits near a device called a light box, which gives off bright light that mimics natural sunlight.

Light therapy is most effective when there is a proper combination of the following:

  • Duration: At first, light therapy session may only last up to 15 minutes per day. Gradually, patients may work their way up to sessions that last two hours per day.
  • Timing: Light therapy is usually most effective when it’s completed in the morning, shortly after a person wakes up.
  • Light intensity: A lux is a measurement of the intensity of light. Most light boxes produce between 2,500 and 10,000 lux. For example, a 10,000-lux light box will usually require a 30-minute light therapy session. A light box with 2,500 lux likely will require up to two hours for the same effectiveness.

While light boxes are available to purchase online and at local drug stores, it is important to work with a doctor to determine the correct amount and length of time that a person should spend in front of the light box.

Sources: National Alliance on Mental Illness and


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