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Seasonal affective disorder treatment, diagnosis & prescriptions

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Can I talk to a doctor on Maple about seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Yes, you can. The doctor will want to schedule a physical exam, and a thorough psychological evaluation, if you’re experiencing symptoms or signs of seasonal affective disorder.

The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are very similar to other forms of depression and mental illness. Because of this, the healthcare provider may refer you to a mental health professional who specializes in identifying these types of conditions.

Once you receive a diagnosis for seasonal affective disorder, the healthcare professional will be able to suggest appropriate seasonal affective disorder treatments for you.

Can I get a prescription on Maple?

Yes, our physicians can prescribe medications for seasonal affective disorder online during your consultation. Once you accept a prescription for seasonal affective disorder, you’ll have the option to pick it up from any pharmacy or to have it delivered right to your door at no additional cost.

You can visit our How it Works page to learn more.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a subtype of the mood disorders; major depressive disorder (MDD), as well as both bipolar I disorder and bipolar II disorder. In most cases, it starts in the fall when the days begin to shorten, and it lasts through the winter until the spring.

The exact causes of seasonal affective disorder are not understood at this time. There are some theories, but nothing that has been proven conclusively.

What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder causes symptoms similar to depression and bipolar types I and II. This means that one of the only telltale signs of seasonal affective disorder is that symptoms typically disappear during certain times of year.

While this normally means seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during the fall and winter, and then disappear in the spring and summer, it can be reversed. This is less common, but does occur.

When signs of seasonal affective disorder appear in the fall and winter, it’s often called “winter depression”. If these seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear in the spring and summer, it’s often called “summer depression”.

The symptoms of major depression in people with SAD are the same as those with nonseasonal MDD.

The most common symptoms and signs of seasonal affective disorder that help identify the condition include:

  • Feeling sluggish or fatigued
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Lack of interest in normally enjoyed activities
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling depressed most of the time
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Changes in weight

In addition to these, winter and summer depression have some unique symptoms. These can sometimes help mental health professionals provide a clear diagnosis for seasonal affective disorder.

Signs of winter seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Increased appetite (especially for foods that are high in carbohydrates)
  • Weight gain
  • Sleeping longer than normal or oversleeping

Signs of summer seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

The exact causes of seasonal affective disorder aren’t yet understood.

However, there are a few potential theories about the causes of seasonal affective disorder, including:

  • Circadian rhythm
  • Non-circadian effects of light
  • Genetics
  • Decreased retinal sensitivity to light
  • Dysregulation of neurotransmitters like serotonin
How is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) diagnosed?

Providing a clear diagnosis for seasonal affective disorder can be challenging. The healthcare provider will want to discuss your medical history, and if you’ve ever experienced any mental illnesses in the past. They will want to complete a physical examination, and may even order some basic blood tests, such as thyroid function.

In many cases, your doctor will refer you to a mental health professional, like a psychotherapist, to perform a thorough psychological evaluation.

Once you have a clear diagnosis for seasonal affective disorder, the healthcare provider will be able to suggest the most effective seasonal affective disorder treatments. This includes any prescription seasonal affective disorder medications that may be necessary.



How is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) treated?

The most common first line seasonal affective disorder treatments include one or a combination of the following:

  • Antidepressants
  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy

Typically, treatment will continue for 2 weeks past the offset of symptoms alongside season changes.

There are a number of factors that go into deciding which seasonal affective disorder treatment to use for each patient, such as:

  • Safety
  • Severity of illness
  • Tolerability
  • Medical history
  • Patient preference

Many patients choose against using light therapy, due to the complications it can cause (retinal disease), or photosensitive medications they’re taking.

Light therapy typically involves buying a special light box that exposes you to bright light within the first hour of waking each day. It could take a few days to a few weeks to begin working and may cause some side effects. Be sure to talk to your doctor before you purchase a light box, so you can create a safe treatment plan to follow.

Psychotherapy is another common treatment for seasonal affective disorder. It can teach you techniques for how to cope with SAD, and how to identify negative thoughts or behaviors.

In some cases, especially when SAD symptoms are severe, the healthcare provider may suggest antidepressant prescription seasonal affective disorder medications. They may also suggest you begin a treatment of antidepressant before your symptoms would normally begin each year, in order to help reduce their severity.

When to see a doctor for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

If you’ve been experiencing long-term depression in any form, you should talk to a healthcare provider. They can ensure you’re not experiencing symptoms of an underlying condition, and refer you to mental health professionals for more help.

Mental health professionals can provide a clear diagnosis for seasonal affective disorder and many other difficult mental health conditions.

Your healthcare provider can also provide any prescription seasonal affective disorder medications you may require to treat your symptoms. If you’ve been feeling moody or low every time the seasons change, Maple can help you take back control of your mental health.

What is Maple?

With Maple, you can start talking to a healthcare provider about your symptoms in a matter of minutes. We’re a healthcare app for fast, convenient 24/7 access to Canadian doctors and healthcare teams.

You simply log in, tap a button to request a consultation, and we’ll immediately connect you to a healthcare provider via live chat or video. You can visit our How it Works page to learn more.

Our healthcare team can assess symptoms, and provide treatment, including prescriptions as necessary.

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