We have always heard that the holidays are hard on some people. In fact, the incidence of suicide and depression increase during the holiday season. It could be physiological. Find out more about seasonal affective disorder.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a subgroup of depression that involves a person suffering from depressive symptoms at a certain time of year. Usually, the depression occurs during the fall and winter. For some unknown reason, people begin to experience depression.
People suffering from seasonal affective disorder chalk it all up to the shorter days and longer nights. We underestimate the effect that lack of sunlight has on us. When the winter season passes, so does the depression and they get back to a normal life without ever realizing that they were depressed in the first place.
The problem is that seasonal affective disorder can be so severe that suicide is one possible outcome. Other symptoms include: overeating, depression, anxiety, weight gain, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, lack of concentration, and lethargy. Some of the symptoms build on each other. For instance, overeating can be caused by depression. As a result of the weight gain, the sufferer spins out of control into helplessness and anxiety.
On top of all this, there is a condition called reverse seasonal affective disorder. Instead of experiencing depressive symptoms during the fall and winter, it is experienced during the spring and summer. The symptoms are opposite to those experienced in the latter part of the year.
One theory about seasonal affective disorder is that the lack of proper sunlight contributes to the condition. Like I said before, we underestimate how much we need natural sunlight. Sunlight brightens the mood. We get a boost from spending even fifteen minutes in the sun each day.
During the winter months, the days are shorter. Fewer sunlit days due to the weather patterns makes us want to stay in. Some people are “bummed” when the weather is not sunny all the time.
In an effort to reduce the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, clinicians are trying several techniques, one of which is light therapy. Anti-depressive medications are often prescribed to lessen the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Psychologists use psychotherapy to try and use positive reinforcement to change thought patterns.
If you feel that you display any of the symptoms and signs of seasonal affective disorder, see a physician as soon as possible. It could be nothing or something quite important. Have you or anyone else noticed a marked change in your behavior at certain times of the year for several years? People with a relative diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder are more likely to be affected by it as well.
In either case, the help of a strong support system assists with handling the condition. No one wants to feel bad and without hope. Lean on those around you to fight this disorder.
What is Light Therapy?
Being out in the sun makes people happy. It’s not just because the weather gets warm because the temperature could be frigid with the sun beaming down. Therapy for seasonal affective disorder may shed some light on the subject.
Light therapy is used to treat patients suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The common theory is that the absence of natural sunlight plays a role in how we feel. Since seasonal affective disorder occurs mainly in the fall and winter seasons, this seems to hold true.
During the latter part of the year, the days are shorter which means fewer hours of light. With the change in seasons comes a change in the weather. Those shorter days are more cloud covered and colder than the former months. Nature goes into hibernation as everything appears to “die” so it can be reborn again in the spring.
With light therapy, the conditions of the sun are mimicked in an attempt to alleviate depression. The therapy works to deliver a light that is as intense as the sunlight. To do that, the light boxes (device used for light therapy) emit a beam of light with an intensity of 10,000 lux. This is the measure of the light intensity as compared to a normal light bulb.
A person utilizing this therapy will sit in close proximity to the light box for anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours. The light hits the body particularly the face without staring directly at the light. Light box users reported better moods after only two weeks of the therapy.
There have been no definitive clinical trials conducted with light therapy to measure its effectiveness on seasonal affective disorder. People who utilize it have done so with the advice of medical personnel. Only they can determine if the situation will benefit from the use of a light box.
The light box has been used by people suffering from clinical depression. It has indication that their symptoms may lessen with use. People with sleep rhythm problems have benefited from light boxes as well.
Light therapy has other indications besides seasonal affective disorder. It is a treatment for acne and other skin disorders. The artificial ultraviolet light of a light box destroys the bacteria that cause acne and other skin disorders.
The artificial ultraviolet rays don’t damage skin like normal sunlight. The rays are not as strong. For use with patients suffering from seasonal affective disorder, this was a concern of the process. Sitting in front of a light that emits ultraviolet radiation on a daily basis would help the depression at the cost of damaging the skin. Light boxes used for that treatment emit no ultraviolet radiation.