Wednesday, November 30, 2005

SAD No More

Anybody around here suffer from SAD besides me? I used to love the onset of Winter with all the holidays and the brisk weather. Over the years, though, that changed. Slowly and imperceptibly, I began to dread the dark, short days. The plans I made would become simply that — plans without any final resolution. Winter became hibernation; no doubt my family thought me related to the bears…shall we say I was a tad grouchy?

Here’s an explanation of the problem:
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a depression that afflicts people primarily during the winter months, and is often referred to as seasonal depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder was discovered in the early eighties by the National Institute of Health. The NIH estimates that over 36 million Americans suffer depressive symptoms brought on by the winter months. Seasonal Affective Disorder causes you to feel down, gloomy, and lose energy. You may have difficulty concentrating and feeling alert, withdraw socially and have carbohydrate cravings. Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers also experience sleep problems.

Seasonal Affective Disorder vs. Winter Blues

Although often confused with the ‘winter blues,’ Seasonal Affective Disorder and Winter Blues are not the same. Seasonal Affective Disorder is manifested by symptoms of clinical depression, with impaired social interaction and cognitive ability. On the other hand, Winter Blues is milder than SAD and is typified by the lack of energy and feeling sad or down. If you have the winter blues, you can still function. If you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, normal daily functions are difficult to perform. Although Seasonal Affective Disorder and Winter Blues differ in the degree of severity, the treatment is the same for both conditions.

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Researchers agree that the lack of sunlight in the fall and winter causes the effects of seasonal depression. Without sunlight, the brain doesn't produce enough serotonin, which results in the symptoms of depression. The darker days also signal the brain to overproduce the hibernation hormone, melatonin. The symptoms diminish as the days get longer, although many Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers note brief (1-2 week) periods of SAD-like symptoms in the summer.

This year I decided to change that. After a month of dilly-dallying, I sat down and ordered a sun box. One place has a circadian rhythm assessment. Hah. Mine is almost a flat line reading.

My circadian rhythm

According to your test results, you have Circadian Amplitude Disorder (CAD). CAD means your body clock may be producing lower amounts of the night/day hormones during the day. This can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), insomnia and other depressive mood disorders. If you have CAD, you may not have problems waking up or going to sleep, but the quality of the wakefulness and/or sleep is diminished. This means you'll probably have less energy during the day.

Duh. The suggested treatment time was 30 minutes at 8:00 am but when I finally got the device, it recommended starting with 15 minutes if you’re fair-skinned. Which I am — given my Celtic genes, the sun has never been my friend.

This light is bright. Whoo wee! But no UV rays so I don’t have to worry about that part. 10,000 Lux, whatever that means beyond bright as the dickens. The point is to have enough light reaching the retina, so while I may read, I have to glance up occasionally to let those rays bounce off my eyes. Hey, any excuse to sit down and read…
SunboxI got my light box at Apollo, though I’m sure any of the other places would do as well. Just google “light box” and you’ll be inundated.

So far, so good. I’ve quit crying in my beer, for one thing. They tell you to “avoid caffeine” which I figure means you shouldn’t look at the coffee while you’re drinking it. One thing is for sure: no sunbox is going to cure lack-of-coffee.

This is supposed to take a week or so to really set in. I’ll have to check with the Baron to see if he can tell.

To be continued…


At 1:06 PM, Blogger airforcewife said...

How very interesting. I, personally, think I have anti-SADS. Ever since we live in Texas I have had an issue with getting very antsy and irritated if there were too many days and too much sunlight.

So silly. I only wish my metabolism worked as well as my Vitamin D production.

At 1:49 AM, Blogger Mussolini said...

Aw, crap. Is there nothing that isn't a disease or silly "disorder" that requires therapy and prescription medication?

Everything's a f***ing excuse nowadays.

At 1:34 AM, Blogger linearthinker said...

Always good to hear from you, Bill.

Unfortunately, the disorder's real. I recall a study done in Humboldt County, CA, a notoriously foggy place, where it was shown the suicide incidence correlated directly to the weather.

I think I have YALS...year-around laziness syndrome. Symptoms same. I don't seem to care.

I'll check back for your results.


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