While many people enjoy the transition into fall and winter, it can bring about uncomfortable feelings and low moods for some. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression is a condition that affects a person’s mood and overall well-being. The winter months can be more challenging for individuals struggling with SAD, but with the proper treatment, you can find relief.
If you struggle with winter depression and haven’t found relief from traditional treatment methods, ketamine therapy could work for you. Below, you’ll learn more about SAD and how to beat seasonal depression through ketamine therapy.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression, is a type of depressive disorder that occurs during specific times of the year, typically in fall or winter. People struggling with SAD usually have their symptoms start and end around the same time. For example, a person with SAD may experience symptoms beginning in the fall and get more intense as winter comes around. As spring begins, their symptoms lessen or go away.
SAD has many similar symptoms to typical depression, with the main difference being that the symptoms don’t last all year. As winter rolls around, a person with SAD will feel less energetic and moody. Some seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:
- Feeling sad or down for most of the day, almost every day during the appropriate seasons.
- Sleeping more than normal.
- Overeating or experiencing weight gain.
- Losing interest in activities that once brought you joy.
- Feelings of hopelessness, guilt or worthlessness.
- Suicidal ideation.
While there’s no known exact cause of SAD, it’s linked to less sunlight and shorter days. SAD is also linked to increased melatonin production since the body naturally produces more melatonin when it gets dark outside. A medical professional can diagnose SAD after a mental health evaluation and after looking at a patient’s medical history.
Traditional Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder
There are a few different seasonal depression treatments that can help improve symptoms during particular months of the year. Some traditional ways to treat seasonal affective disorder:
1. Sunlight Exposure
Since seasonal depression is thought to be linked to less sunlight and shorter days in the winter months, one type of treatment includes increasing a person’s exposure to sunlight. This treatment can consist of encouraging more time outdoors or near a window if you can’t get outside.
2. Light Therapy
While sunlight exposure is beneficial, it’s not always possible, especially for those working indoors away from windows or later in the day or night. Another form of treatment for SAF is light therapy, which involves using a lightbox. Light therapy aims to replace the natural light you miss during the day, mimicking natural light. Lightboxes are brighter than indoor lights.
While there are many benefits of light therapy, including accessibility, safety and convenience, there are also some drawbacks to consider, such as the chance of complicating some preexisting medical conditions. Other possible cons of light therapy include the following:
It can also take some time to see results with light therapy. A person has to be consistent when using a light box at the same time each day. You may not see results for a few days or longer.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other types of treatment can help treat SAD. Psychotherapy can help change distorted views or beliefs about yourself or your environment. Psychotherapy may also improve your interpersonal relationships, helping you identify things that cause stress and how to manage them.
Psychotherapy is often used alongside other types of treatment, such as antidepressants.
Like other types of depression, SAD can often be treated using antidepressants. These medications may help correct chemical imbalances in the brain that can contribute to SAD. Your doctor may choose to use antidepressants alongside other treatments or alone, depending on the severity of your symptoms.
What Is Ketamine Therapy?
Ketamine therapy refers to using a nasal spray or IV transfusions to administer ketamine, a medication initially used as an anesthetic. Ketamine has become more common in treating treatment-resistant depression and other mental health conditions, helping people find relief from their symptoms where traditional forms of treatment didn’t help or produce unwanted side effects. The brand of ketamine used to treat mental health conditions is called SPRAVATO™.
Ketamine for depression works by stimulating glutamate, one of the neurotransmitters in the brain, which helps the brain make new connections. Ketamine helps many patients form positive connections in the brain while going through other treatment types. People who experience relief with ketamine therapy in their first few sessions are more likely to prolong the positive effects of the medication with repeated visits.
How Does Ketamine Therapy Help Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Since ketamine has been used to treat treatment-resistant depression in many patients, it makes sense that it can also be used to treat SAD. Ketamine for seasonal affective disorder is often effective when other traditional treatments don’t work.
One of the benefits of ketamine is that you don’t have to wait several weeks to start seeing improvement like you would with antidepressants. Some people begin to see improvements just a few hours after their infusion. Ketamine can also be used alongside traditional treatment methods, such as psychotherapy and light therapy.
Another benefit of ketamine is that once your symptoms resolve as spring and summer roll around, you don’t have to continue infusions. Antidepressants require taking the medication continuously to see long-lasting results. You only take ketamine when you need it and don’t need to continue infusions after you feel better.
Since seasonal depression is a lot like regular depression, ketamine can target many symptoms of SAD, such as low moods, loss of interest in enjoyable activities and suicidal ideation. You may feel better sooner than if you went through traditional treatment methods, making ketamine an ideal option for many struggling with seasonal depression.
What Does The Treatment Process Look Like?
The ketamine therapy treatment process depends on the clinic you visit, but the process is generally the same. Ketamine treatment generally follows the same steps, which include:
- Pre-treatment: Before you receive ketamine infusions, you’ll usually complete a questionnaire to get a better idea of your symptoms. You may be asked about your medical history. After a short wait, you’ll discuss the potential side effects of the therapy, which is also when you can ask questions about the treatment. Your doctor may give you an IV and apply oxygenation monitors to different body parts.
- Infusion: Your doctor will start the infusion once you’ve gone through the pre-treatment process. Your doctor will ensure you experience pleasant feelings. The dose is carefully monitored because too high of a dose can induce negative feelings, which is counterproductive to treatment.
- Post-infusion: Once you finish the infusion, the feelings from ketamine should fade in 20 minutes or so. Some people experience dizziness or nausea after treatment, which often relieves after a while, or medications can be used to control these feelings. Some people feel tired after their treatment and leave with a trusted friend or family member.
- Additional infusions: Depending on the extent of your symptoms, you may go back for additional infusions. You usually return to your doctor to review your progress, and they will determine if you need additional treatments. Infusion experiences can vary from each session, but the process typically remains the same.
Find Relief From Seasonal Depression With Principium Psychiatry
If you struggle with seasonal depression, Principium Psychiatry can help. We use SPRAVATO™ to help you find relief from the challenging symptoms of SAD, helping improve your overall well-being. Our compassionate team can lead you through the treatment process, helping you learn the benefits of ketamine treatment and how it can help you move on with your life in the winter months.
If you’re ready to retake control of your life, Principium Psychiatry is here to help. Book an appointment today to get started, or contact us to learn more about how our treatment can revolutionize your life.