Interestingly though, you do not have to move to Los Angeles or Phoenix, or Miami to catch the rays.
You can also catch them in the comfort of your own home using a light box. These devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they all deliver light at about 10 to 20 times the brightness of ordinary indoor lighting.
Sitting or reading under these lights for 30 minutes to two hours in the morning over days to weeks can substantially improve mood in people with SAD.
Medications can also help. Prozac and Zoloft, two of the serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitor antidepressants, have been shown to effectively treat SAD patients. Another antidepressant, Wellbutrin, has been shown to prevent SAD when started in the autumn.
Light therapy and medications were shown to be equally effective in several studies, though side effects are probably less frequent among those treated with the light.
Can anything else help with depressive symptoms at this time of year?
Of course! The holiday season can be a wonderfully uplifting experience as most of us know abundantly well. It can lift the spirits of those who are feeling low. It can be about rebirth and renewal, about generosity and love, and about strengthening the connections among us.
These connections can serve as pillars of strength for those with clinical depression, sometimes shielding them from the worst that the illness can dish out.
So this holiday season, may we all reach out to those we love, recommitting ourselves to them, and deepening the ties that bind us all.
Dr. James Potash is an associate professor of psychiatry and co-director of the Mood Disorders Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. If you have questions or comments, please e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To participate in our genetic and clinical studies, call 877-MOODS-JH.