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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – “What is it? And Does It Affect You?”

DAVID JAMES & ASSOCIATES
http://www.davidjamesandassociates.com
January, 2011

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
“What is it? And Does It Affect You?”

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is when a person suffers clinical depressions only during the autumn and winter seasons, in the spring and summer they feel well and “normal”.

Symptoms of SAD:

-Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
-Increased need for sleep; sleeping more than usual
-Carbohydrate craving and increased appetite
-Weight gain

If you think that you may have SAD you should visit your family doctor to be assessed because some physical problems can show up as depression.

How common is SAD?

Researchers believe that SAD results from the shorter day length in winter. SAD seems to be more common in northern countries because the winter day is shorter as you go north. Up to 2 million people in Canada may have difficulties in the winter months due to significant clinical depression.

What treatments are available for SAD?

Many patient with SAD benefit from exposure to bright, artificial light, called light therapy or photo therapy. As little as 30 minutes per day of sitting under a light box results in significant improvement in 60% to 80% of SAD patients. People with certain medical conditions or taking certain medications should avoid light therapy. Other treatments for depression, such as antidepressants and counselling may also help. If you suffer with milder symptoms of the “winter blahs” it might be beneficial to spend more time outdoors and exercise more in the winter.

Why does light therapy work?

Nobody know for sure why light therapy works, there are a few theories. One theory is that people with SAD have a disturbance in the “biological clock” in the brain that regulates hormones, sleep patterns and mood. This clock runs slow due to the diminished light in the winter and the light therapy helps to trick the clock. Another theory is that SAD patients have reduced retinal light sensitivity in the winter that is corrected with light therapy. A final theory is that the shorter periods of light in the winter cause less brain chemical function, particularly the production of serotonin and dopamine. Light therapy or anti-depression medication corrects this imbalance.

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