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     Volume 4 Issue 13 | September 17, 2004 |

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Are you Sad

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD can be summarised as a depressive episode that begins at a specific time of year, is not related to "specific yearly stressors," like school or seasonal unemployment, and ends or changes at a certain time of year. Generally, this depression begins in the fall and ends in spring but research has shown that SAD affects a few people during the summer.

What causes SAD?
There are a number of theories, most of which come down to the simple fact that when the natural light of long summer days gives way to the short, dark days of fall and winter, a certain percentage of people become depressed and less able to function. Studies have shown that the farther from the equator one lives - and therefore the less sunlight received during the day - the greater the incidence of SAD.

It is known that genetics play a role in SAD, since 60 percent of those suffering SAD have relatives who experience some form of depression, either seasonal or non-seasonal. Just as in many other diseases and disorders, from cancer to diabetes to obesity, it's often who you're related to that leads to physical and mental illnesses.

Who suffers from SAD?
The majority of SAD sufferers are women. In fact, research indicates that from 70 to 80 percent of those who suffer from SAD are women; the theory is that since women are generally somewhat more susceptible to depression, incidence of SAD is higher among them. Some children and teenagers are also affected by SAD. There is also much research being done with people suffering from Alzheimer's Disease; one of the symptoms of the disease is called "sundowning," which causes a dramatic change in one's mental and emotional state in the evening and during the night. Combined with the disruptive effects of SAD, these people are understandably becoming a focus in the use of light therapy.

Symptoms of SAD
SAD symptoms usually appear every year, beginning between September and November, continuing until March or April. The symptoms can appear either quickly or gradually in the fall, and disappear in the same way in the spring. Depending on the amount and intensity of light, symptoms can arrive and depart in a period of just a few weeks. If any of these symptoms recur three years in a row, a doctor will generally make a diagnosis of SAD, based on a set of standards used by the American Psychiatric Association:

Sleep disruptions - Oversleeping, difficulty staying awake, disturbed sleep.

Changes in eating habits - Craving for sweets and carbohydrates, which often results in weight gain.

Depression - Loss of self-esteem, feelings of despair, apathy.

Anxiety - Increased tension, along with a reduced ability to deal with stress.

Lethargy - Being unable to maintain a normal routine of daily living; a sense of constant fatigue.

Social disruptions - Reduced willingness and desire to be with people.

Other symptoms may include - Irritability, loss of libido, inability to think clearly.

Treatment of SAD
The most common treatment for SAD is phototherapy. A very bright light is used to provide a level of light similar to that of a clear spring morning. Most people find that sitting in front of such a light for up to an hour in the morning provides significant relief. Since the intensity of home or office lighting ranges from 250 to 500 lux, and the minimum dose required for effective phototherapy is 2500 lux, one of the many commercially available products is recommended.

Research has indicted that as many as 80 percent of SAD-sufferers will find relief from the use of a light box, even without any other treatment.

Spending as much time as possible outdoors during the day during the winter months can be very helpful. In fact, several studies have recommend a brisk midday walk or a visit to a ski slope may be effective in relieving some of the symptoms of SAD.

Some other suggested activities include exercise and the scheduling of regular social events, and dietary changes. In addition, some doctors prescribe antidepressants to treat the symptoms of SAD.

Source: Themaineweekly.com




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