Thursday, November 13, 2008
Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD
A NEW LEARNING
This is a form of depression that affects a person during the doldrums season(s) of the year. SAD is also known as winter depression or winter blues. A person may feel terrific during spring, summer, and autumn but feel lower than a snail in winter. Of course those with higher risk factors are people who live in areas where winter days are short or daylight is minimal because of cloud cover as is the case for me in the lower mainland of British Columbia. Those most prone to suffer from SAD are women, sorry; and younger people since the risk diminishes as one ages (BUT DON'T COUNT ON IT), and even people with family histories in which SAD has affected relatives. It’s problematic because the symptoms can be disruptive and even debilitating. People who struggle with SAD, may have difficulty concentrating and have reduced interest in daily activities or social interaction, experience low energy and fatigue, find themselves irritable, moody or withdrawn, and may have weight gain because of increased cravings for complex carbs, i.e. pasta and bread.
It is theorized that SAD is caused from lack of sunlight which may distress the sleep/wake cycle or ‘circadian’ rhythms (word for the day). It may adversely affect a chemical called serotonin which affects mood.
SAD can be treated practically with bright light treatment, i.e. sitting in front of a ‘light box’ for 30 minutes per day (preferably morning). Sometimes ‘dawn stimulation’ is effective, with a light fixed to come on in the morning and become increasingly brighter to replicate sunrise. Improved outlooks can occur in one week but it must be maintained through the dismal season. Of course other treatments may include antidepressants which balance the brain chemicals which affect mood, and carefully timed supplementation of the hormone melatonin. Occasionally counseling is required to assist a person to understand SAD and manage the symptoms. Always, exercise on most days of the week, particularly in the mornings, walking, biking (stationary bike is good) and swimming inspire one’s attitude and boosts energy.
For more information look at the BC Health Guide, or try Wikipaedia
or the Mayo Clinic site or Canadian Mental Health Association.