Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

No Need to Feel SAD

Feb 21, 2012 12:38AM ● By Anonymous
You could be among the four to seven percent of the population with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

SAD was first researched by Dr. Normal Rosenthal in the 1980s as he worked with the National Institute of Mental Health to diagnose his own depression, and since then there has been a plethora of research and literature published on the disorder. His book, Winter Blues, is still one of the leading books for and introduction to the disorder. According to the CDC, having SAD goes beyond just feeling a “little bummed” at the shorter period of daylight; it prompts people to seek clinical care.

Everyone has a bad day every once in a while where you’re feeling low or moody, lose interest in your normal activities, crave carbohydrates, and eat a little more than you intended. However, if these symptoms start at the same time every year and last through the season before remitting, and that cycle has repeated for at least two years in a row, you should let your doctor know so that you can get treatment. Those of us stuck in offices with no windows or access to an outside light source are also at risk for SAD, as the lighting in offices is too low to be effective in treating SAD. And, of course, it doesn’t help matters that during the winter, you spend all the daylight hours inside that building.

Logically, the most common treatment for SAD is light therapy. Your options in this treatment are to sit in front of a bright “light box” for half an hour or longer, usually in the morning, or to use a light that simulates dawn by starting out dim while you’re asleep and gradually gets brighter over time, much like a sunrise. Even people diagnosed with sub-syndromal SAD, a milder form of the disorder that affects people’s day-to-day activities but doesn’t generally prompt them to seek clinical treatment, can benefit from light therapy. People using light therapy every day until the season changes generally feel the effects of light therapy within a week.

Antidepressants and counseling are also recommended treatments. Studies by Indiana University recommends performing moderate exercise, such as walking or riding a bike, to fend off depression. If the weather gets too cold, a stationary bike near a window can do just as much good. And people trapped in those office buildings should make a point of getting out at lunch and at least walking around the block for a few minutes.

Thinking of buying a light box? Here’s what you should know:

• Light boxes mimic outdoor light which is thought to cause a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD. They are available at retailers and online and range in price from $100 to $500.