SAD (seasonal affective disorder) was first mentioned in medical literature in the mid nineteen eighties, so it hasn’t been diagnosed,or treated, as a medical condition for very long, indicating that many long time sufferers of this condition were not treated until recently.
As the seasons change, and the amount of daylight diminishes, persons with SAD begin to suffer from insomnia, and a distinct lack of energy. Besides the lethargy, they frequently become clinically depressed, with a significant change in their sleeping patterns. Naturally, this chronic debilitating condition causes anguish to the patient, and to those around them. It precludes participating in their much of their regular daily routine, and impacts their spouse, their children, and any professional commitments they may have.
Dr. Gabrielle Mellin, a Psychiatrist at the Mayo clinic speaks to the overproduction of Melatonin, the sleep hormone, as the major source of the onset of SAD. She points out there are genetic indicators that establish the vulnerability of some people to this problem. The excess Melatonin disrupts our internal body clock and leads to various symptoms of depression such as:
2. loss of energy
3. social withdrawal
5. appetite changes, with increased interest in carbohydrates
6. weight gain
7. sense of hopelessness
8. difficulty concentrating
Along with prescription drugs to treat depression, Dr. Mellin suggests photo-therapy to generally diminish the many symptoms of the condition. Exposure to a measured amount of light is very helpful to the patient, allowing them to assume at least some of their daily routine.
It was suggested that the type of light used, distance from the light, and amount of time, are very specific. The light should be of adequate intensity, 10,000 lux (lux is a measurement of light intensity). At 10,000 lux, the amount of time required in front of the light is 30 minutes.
To have the most desired effect for the patient, the light treatments are typically done in the morning. For patients with underlying conditions such as bipolar disorder, it is possible the light treatment will bring about a manic episode, so extreme caution is advised. Another reason the treatments are confined to the morning, is to avoid potential episodes of patient insomnia.
Seasonal affective disorder occurs more commonly in women than in men, and is found to more frequently be a problem for people who are farthest from the equator. The cycle of symptoms can be easily traced to the seasonal daylight available, and so the onset arrives as summer light fades, and the symptoms begin to disappear in the spring. As with many other disorders, there are degrees of suffering. Some are truly held prisoner by their symptoms, while those with a minor affliction suffer some headaches, a sense of fatigue, and to varying degrees disinterest in things the victims of this debilitating disorder usually enjoy.
It is possible for this SAD to present in the summertime, with symptoms frequently more severe than the winter onset. They are similar, and perhaps more unpredictable, including irritability, loss of appetite, and thoughts of suicide.
There is now widely available treatment for this unusual, and debilitating disorder, so if any of the above symptoms seem to occur in a recognizable rhythm each year, in lieu of just hunkering down to endure the worst, it would be wise to seek the medical assistance now available.