Finding Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment Options for Long-Term Recovery

A range of effective treatment options are readily available for seasonal affective disorder, from medication to psychotherapy to simulated sunlight. With the support of clinicians and therapists, you can make a plan to integrate these treatment methods into your daily life and reignite your energy and positivity.

We all feel a little down sometimes. It’s only natural, especially when the days grow short and sunlight becomes scarce.

However, it’s important to distinguish between a normal low mood and a more serious condition known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Mistakenly dismissing SAD symptoms as simply moodiness or “winter blues” blocks the possibility for critical treatment and for real improvement in the everyday lives of those who struggle with seasonal depression or bipolar disorder.


SAD is a cyclical mental health disorder that persists year after year but that can be alleviated with proactive care. It’s time to discover the seasonal affective disorder treatment options that can offer you greater freedom and peace.

What Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment Options Are Available?

Like many types of major depression, symptoms of seasonal affective disorder occur in chronic patterns. In response, treatment methods should be introduced and maintained in patterns that are well suited to each individual’s symptoms and personal needs. The following SAD treatment options can be selected and combined to create the best treatment care plan:

Light Therapy

A special treatment option for seasonal affective disorder is light therapy, which is designed to make up for the sunlight deficit during darker fall and winter months. Typically, a person with seasonal major depression will set aside time in the early morning for measured light exposure. But, in the case of someone with bipolar disorder with seasonal features, they may instead use a light therapy device midday. A professional will know best how light therapy should be applied. People often find that within days or weeks—and in combination with any other treatment options indicated—their symptoms of SAD become less pronounced.

Antidepressant Medications

The most common medications prescribed for SAD are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), but diverse antidepressants may also work. Medical supervision is important when someone starts a new a medication. It can take some time to find the right medication for each individual and for the effects to kick in. It can be especially helpful if they begin their recovery journey in a residential treatment setting where this close supervision is well integrated along with other treatment methods.


An vital part of treatment for long-term recovery is working with a therapist. With psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a client can develop awareness of their negative thought patterns and adapt their thoughts in positive directions. They can also develop healthy coping strategies for stressful or traumatic situations. Even if major depressive symptoms are concentrated during a particular time of year, it still serves to explore what is underneath the troubling thought patterns and feelings of disempowerment that accompany SAD.

Holistic Therapies

Clients tend to resonate best with a holistic approach to therapy that includes activities such as acupuncture, a drumming group, massage, meditation, physical fitness, yoga, or pottery. These types of activities can bring relaxation and mindfulness, energy, and a feeling of connection between the mind, body, and spirit. Holistic practices can also include eating wholesome meals and supplementing the diet with vitamin D, which the body produces less of during the darker months of the year.

Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Options

It is common for clients to undergo treatment for depression on an outpatient basis. But for severe episodes of depression, as seasonal transitions often provoke, a more immersive and intensive inpatient program may be the right course for a client to have adequate care and attention and a range of treatment options available in one place round the clock. A residential treatment environment for seasonal affective disorder can also be a progressive step for someone getting started with a comprehensive treatment plan and needing to establish constructive routines for the longer term.

Begin Your Recovery Journey.


How Can You Integrate SAD Treatment into Your Life for the Long Term?

Major depression and seasonal affective disorder are chronic mental health issues, but with treatment practices woven consistently into your days, you can minimize your symptoms and focus on living your life to the fullest, even in the colder, darker months of the year. It’s time to make a plan for integrating your SAD treatment options into everyday life. Along with the various therapies recommended by your doctor, the following healthy practices can also help ease depression symptoms and set you up for a strong season:

  • Get as much sunshine as possible during fall and winter. Adjust your daily schedule if necessary to maximize your outdoor sun exposure.
  • Plan for regular exercise or other physical activity.
  • Maintain close relationships with family and friends, and participate in social activities to help you stay connected and supported.
  • Stick to a basic daily schedule as much as possible, especially with sleeping and waking, so your body and mind can get used to the routines.

Some of your positive practices may be seasonal, such as using a light therapy box, but you’ll notice the most benefits by adhering to your healthy routines all year. If you’re not sure where to start, it’s time to reach out to a professional treatment center, where you’ll have access to a wide range of support and expert guidance.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive residential treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward healing.