Diagnosis and Treatment

Getting a Diagnosis

If you think you might be suffering from depression or the winter blues, the first thing you need to do is get a diagnosis from your doctor. Doing so will allow him/her to create course of action not only to help you cope but so that you can feel good again.

If you're not sure what to expect when meeting with your doctor, keep in mind that often a Suffering from DepressionCredit: Image courtesy of pat138241 at FreeDigitalPhotos.netdiagnosis of depression depends on how you feel so your doctor will ask you some questions in order to figure out what's wrong. During your appointment, your doctor will ask about several areas of your life and may also touch on your diet as well as your personal/family history. Additionally the doctor has to make sure that there is no physical underlying disorders causing your symptoms so he/she may have to perform a physical exam. How you answer those questions the doctor asks you will determine whether the diagnosis is depression and whether it is constant or just connected to the season (i.e., winter blues).

A Diagnosis of Seasonal Depresson

The diagnosis of seasonal depression means that you've been having problems during the same season (usually winter) for a few years and that the depression eases when you move into another season. If the doctor thinks that your depression is seasonal then you're the treatment options might be different from the non-seasonal diagnosis of depression. For example, light therapy is a possible solution for seasonal depression.

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After a Depression Diagnosis

With your depression diagnosis the doctor can recommend best options for treatment. There may be some self-help measures you have to take like eating certain foods or exercising more. You might need to take an anti-depressant and see a counselor for cognitive and/or behavioral therapy on a regular basis.

You should discuss all your options with your doctor so that together you can monitor your progress. Some are hesitant to visit a professional regarding depression, whether it's your general practitioner or a psychologist. Some people are in denial about how severe their depression is. You deserve a good life and often the best way to get back on track is to follow through with seeing your doctor and getting diagnosed. It often doesn't take very long to diagnose the problem especially if it is not connected to more serious physical health problems.  You will be glad that you took the time out of your day to work with your doctor.

Treatments for Depression

Depression treatments for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are usually the same as treatment for non-seasonal depression. Here are some of the best treatment options available for those suffering with depression.

Light Therapy

Since winter depression is thought to be connected to the lack of exposure to the sun in winter and the resulting vitamin D deficiency in an individual, light therapy is meant to give your body the light it needs to alleviate depression. Doctors recommend the non-invasive option of full spectrum lighting as treatment for SAD. Sunlight is full-spectrum light (from infra-red light to near ultra-violet) so using an indoor light that provides the same electromagnetic light spectrum can offer the same benefits to someone dealing with SAD.  Counseling for DepressionCredit: Image courtesy of Ambro at

The simulation of sunlight can encourage the brain to produce certain "feel-good" hormones (like serotonin) which in turn alleviate depression symptoms such as increased appetite, tiredness, feelings of defeat, etc. 

There are some possible side effects to light therapy.  Sometimes users report feeling anxious, having trouble sleeping (depending on the time of day the light is used) as well as headaches.  You do not need to report your light therapy usage to your doctor but you can talk to him/her about any side effects you experience.  Your doctor can recommend light therapy options as well as the strength of exposure. For those with sensitive eyes, epilepsy, or who are taking certain medications, due to those conditions, light therapy may not be for you.

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Antidepressants are the most common kind of medication for treating general depression. For Medications for DepressionCredit: Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.netseasonal depression they are usually only prescribed in the most severe cases. Antidepressants work with certain hormones in the brain that directly affect your mood. Antidepressants come with some pros and cons in terms of why you should take them and should be discussed with your doctor before you take them. You have to take the medicine as prescribed otherwise you might experience unpleasant symptoms.  Almost all antidepressants have side effects and for some people the side effects will negate the benefits of taking the pills.  Usually antidepressants can be taken for a short time although some prescription antidepessants can take a few weeks to have a beneficial effect.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a treatment that is based on adjusting the way you look at your situations in general since perspective can affect your mood and possibly lead to your sense of unhappiness. Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT can teach you different ways to help yourself, change the way you think and look at life in different and more positive ways. Often cognitive behavior therapy can be done in group setting or one-on-one with a practitioner over a number of meetings. Counseling is exactly what it is. It involves talking to counselor about your problems and how you react to them.

Your counselor would talk to you about the issues that contribute to your depression with the  goal of helping you to see things more clearly and helping you to deal with problems in the way that doesn't affect your mood. So treatments for winter blues are similar to standard depression treatment and one treatment may work better for one person and another might work better for you. What is most important is that you speak to your doctor to figure out what is best for you.