First cited in medical literature in 1985, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, also called the winter blues or winter depression, is one of the newer recognized medical problems. It tends to affect those who live away from the equator, in northern climes, and is very common in areas where there is often snow for much of the winter.
Women are more vulnerable to SAD than men, even though the reasons for this remain to be discovered. Although it’s quite rare in people under the age of 20, past that age it can affect anybody. While Seasonal Affective Disorder is usually linked to the autumn and winter, there are a number of men and women who suffer with it in summer – in certain instances rather than winter, in certain instances along with winter.
This is Called Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder. The generally accepted theory is that people that are affected react to the colder temperatures and the reduced levels of light that occur as fall and winter progress. Although there are no firm figures available, it’s estimated that some two percent of people in the US and four percent of those in Canada suffer from SAD. Within the Arctic area the prices of SAD are much greater; in Finland 9.5 percent of the population suffers from this condition. One notion is that melatonin, which can be linked to depression, might contribute to SAD.
As exposure to light diminishes in the winter, the body produces less melatonin, and there’s less serotonin in the human body. From these, the extrapolation is an imbalance in brain chemistry is made, triggering the problem. There’s also a condition named Subsyndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder, which affects a larger percentage of the populace. It’s milder than SAD, with an estimated 14.3 percent of the population being affected. Exercise, in addition to exposing oneself to sun whenever possible in the winter, can relieve this. The American Psychiatric Association doesn’t classify SAD as a distinct disorder, but instead as a”class specifier” applied to major depressive episodes among patients suffering from bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. To fulfill the standards, the Seasonal Pattern Specifier must include episodes of depression at a specific time of the year, have lasted for 2 years without depressive episodes which are non-seasonal, have remissions in a characteristic time of the year, and the episodes need to reevaluate other episodes of the depression during the duration of the patient. The Mayo Clinic defines three distinct kinds of SAD, each of which has its own symptoms. There’s a range of symptoms associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder; those may differ from mild to quite severe, exacerbated when folks work in states with no natural lighting, or where heavens stay cloudy for extended periods.
The symptoms typically begin in the autumn and stretch till spring, peaking through the darkest period of winter. Fatigue is quite common with SAD. There’s a desire, and frequently a tendency, to oversleep, although frequently the body feels rested after long periods of sleep. Those afflicted by SAD typically experience hibernation syndrome, where they lose interest in most social activities, preferring to stay alone at home. There may commonly even be a withdrawal from family and friends while SAD affects a person.
Overeating, especially of carbohydrates and sugar, is a very common symptom. Weight gain is a corollary of the behavior. Mood changes and depression commonly present themselves as SAD symptoms. In extreme cases of SAD, the melancholy includes suicidal thoughts. More commonly, feelings of despair, sadness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, a depleted sex drive, as well as crying spells are the symptoms that are expressed. When SAD occurs in summer, melancholy still happens, even though it’s often accompanied by weight loss, insomnia, and poor appetite. It’s fairly common to locate antidepressants prescribed as a means to combat SAD.
Good to know
Especially effective are drugs from the serotonin selective reuptake inhibitor family, although this has really been shown to be better for summer SAD, while still being prescribed for autumn and winter. However, the side effects of medication from this family may include diarrhea, nausea, and a diminished sex drive. Antidepressants are often utilized along with psychotherapy, particularly talk therapy or behavioral therapy.
The very best method of combating seasonal affective disorder is with light. Exposure to bright fluorescent light has been demonstrated to decrease depression among individuals who suffer SAD in the autumn and during the winter. Phototherapy, as it’s called, can do the job even when it’s temporary – a holiday in a sunny location with glowing light relieves SAD. Unfortunately, nearly all people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder can’t afford to take holidays in the midst of winter.
A better and cheaper alternative type of phototherapy is your light box, which can be widely commercially available. It’s used by the individual for around 30 to 90 minutes daily, and emits a bright light 25 times that of the normal room light. While sunlight is the perfect type of phototherapy or light treatment, the mild to alleviate SAD doesn’t have to be sunlight. More significant is that the quantity of the light, in contrast to the quality, in the treatment of SAD. The light should maintain doses of 2,500 to 10,000 lux, and the individual receiving treatment should sit between one and two feet from the light box.
The eyes should be open, however, the individual shouldn’t stare at the light. The individual may continue working during the light treatment. What’s vital is the near exposure to light that imitates outdoor sunlight. It’s believed, although not proven, that the exposure to this light changes the circadian rhythms of the body in addition to suppressing the natural release of melatonin. These combine to make biochemical changes in the brain that can control or reduce the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s not without the risk of side effects, however, and these can normally be sleeplessness, eyestrain, headaches, and irritability.