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Symptoms of SAD keep coming back year after year, and they tend to come and go at about the same time every year. The changes in mood are not necessarily related to obvious things that would make a certain season stressful (like regularly being unemployed during the winter).
Is there a treatment for SAD?
Yes. Winter depression is probably caused by your body's reaction to a lack of sunlight. Light therapy is one option for treating winter depression.
If your doctor suggests you try light therapy, you may use a specially made light box or a light visor that you wear on your head like a cap. You will sit in front of the light box or wear the light visor for a certain length of time each day. Generally, light therapy takes about 30 minutes each day throughout the fall and winter, when you're most likely to be depressed. If light therapy helps you, you'll continue using it until enough sunlight is available, typically in the springtime. Stopping light therapy too soon can allow the symptoms to come back.
When used properly, light therapy seems to have very few side effects. Side effects may include eyestrain, headache, fatigue, irritability and inability to sleep (if light therapy is used too late in the day). For people who have manic depressive disorders, skin that is sensitive to light, or medical conditions that make their eyes vulnerable to light damage, light therapy should be used with caution.
Tanning beds shouldn't be used to treat SAD. The light sources in tanning beds are high in ultraviolet (UV) rays, which harm both your eyes and your skin.