Seasonal Affective Disorder: SAD is a mood disorder associated with depression episodes and related to seasonal variations of light.
As seasons change, there is a shift in our “biological internal clocks” or circadian rhythm, due partly to these changes in sunlight patterns. The most difficult months for SAD sufferers are January and February, and younger persons and women are at higher risk.
- regularly occurring symptoms of depression (excessive eating and sleeping, weight gain) during the fall or winter months.
- full remission from depression occurs in the spring and summer months.
- symptoms have occurred in the past two years, with no non-seasonal depression episodes.
- seasonal episodes substantially outnumber non-seasonal depression episodes.
- a craving for sugary and/or starchy foods.
Phototherapy or bright light therapy has been shown to suppress the brain’s secretion of melatonin. Although, there have been no research findings to definitely link this therapy with an antidepressant effect, many people respond to this treatment. For mild symptoms, spending time outdoors during the day or arranging homes and workplaces to receive more sunlight may be helpful. One study found that an hour’s walk in winter sunlight was as effective as two and a half hours under bright artificial light.
If phototherapy doesn’t work, an antidepressant drug may prove effective in reducing or eliminating SAD symptoms, but there may be unwanted side effects to consider.
[Facts provided by www.nmha.org]
If someone has questions they should discuss their symptoms thoroughly with their family doctor and/or mental health professional. If someone would like to talk to a mental health professional for information and referral, they may call The Mental Health Association’s helpline at (516) 504 HELP (4357), 9am-9pm, seven days a week.