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Dealing with the Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder is actually a subtype of any one of these three common conditions - Major Depression, Bipolar I Disorder and Bipolar II Disorder. And what many don't realize is there are two seasonal types, one that starts in the fall/winter and tends to lift by the spring; and the spring/summer depression, which typically lifts by the fall. The winter depression is the one most of us are aware of.

For those people experiencing a serious bout of winter depression, the first line treatment recommendation (per the American Psychiatric Association) is a combination of antidepressant medication along with one of the following - either bright light therapy or something known as "dawn simulation." We'll focus on bright light therapy for this particular article. Your psychiatric provider can help with the medication component, and here are some suggestions on bright light therapy:

  • Buy a 10,000 lux light box using fluorescent bulbs that emit white light. I've had patients try this one before with success

  • Do light therapy same time every morning after you wake up, and spend about 30 minutes

  • Have light visible in your peripheral vision, but don't stare straight at the light

  • Sit and do any stationary activity (e.g., have a snack, do a crossword puzzle, read a book) with the light set up about 2 feet away

And lastly, good sleep hygiene and regular exercise will also help expedite your recovery.

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