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Natural Remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Updated July 19, 2013

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There are several natural treatment options for people with seasonal affective disorder (or "SAD," a depressive disorder that tends to occur during the fall and winter months). People with SAD often have a depressed mood or a lack of interest in normal activities, along with other symptoms, such as fatigue, weight gain, changes in sleep patterns, irritability, anxiety, and cravings for sweets and starchy foods.

There are several psychiatric treatments to help manage the symptoms of SAD. In addition, natural treatments such as light therapy, stress management techniques, and certain dietary supplements may help alleviate symptoms.

Natural Remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Here's a look at several natural treatments that may help improve symptoms of seasonal affective disorder:

1) Light Therapy

Because lack of exposure to sunlight is thought to trigger seasonal affective disorder, light therapy is often recommended as a natural treatment for this condition. Light therapy typically involves sitting in front of a light-generating device (called a "light box") for at least 30 minutes each day. However, increasing your exposure to sunlight by spending more time outside or sitting beside a window may also help improve seasonal affective disorder symptoms, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

2) Dietary Supplements

To date, few studies have tested the effectiveness of dietary supplements in natural treatment of seasonal affective disorder. Still, a 2008 research review indicates that running low on vitamin D may be correlated to the onset of seasonal affective disorder. The review also found that a dysfunction in the body's production of melatonin may be associated with seasonal affective disorder. Additionally, a report published in 2007 suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may have a positive effect on people with affective disorders.

If you're considering the use of any dietary supplement in treatment of seasonal affective disorder, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen.

3) Stress Management Techniques

Stress management is another natural treatment option for seasonal affective disorder, according to the National Institutes of Health. Indeed, studies show that chronic stress may increase your risk of depressive disorders. In addition to managing your stress triggers, you may want to consider the regular practice of stress reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation.

Using Natural Remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you're experiencing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, it's important to work with a mental health professional in creating a treatment program. While certain natural treatments may help you manage this condition, you may need to pursue other therapy options in order to properly treat seasonal affective disorder.

Sources

American Academy of Family Physicians. "Seasonal Affective Disorder". May 2010.

American Psychiatric Association. "Seasonal Affective Disorder".

Lam RW, Levitt AJ, Levitan RD, Enns MW, Morehouse R, Michalak EE, Tam EM. "The Can-SAD study: a randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of light therapy and fluoxetine in patients with winter seasonal affective disorder." Am J Psychiatry. 2006 May;163(5):805-12.

Morgan AJ, Jorm AF. "Self-help interventions for depressive disorders and depressive symptoms: a systematic review." Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2008 Aug 19;7:13.

National Institutes of Health. "Seasonal Affective Disorder: MedlinePlus". August 2010.

Tennant C. "Life events, stress and depression: a review of recent findings." Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2002 Apr;36(2):173-82.

van Strater AC, Bouvy PF. "Omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of affective disorders: an overview of the literature." Tijdschr Psychiatr. 2007;49(2):85-94.

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