Friday, December 15, 2006

Does Winter Make You S.A.D.?

news you may not know

Wake Me At

Half-Past May...

With the lazy days of summer echoing about the caverns of your well-tanned brain, you cast a cautious eye to the far shore. Nothing big, really. Just a small cloud amidst an otherwise gorgeous late-summer sky. Still... You've seen it too many times before. The small cloud grows and darkens, then races across the sky, gathering friends from all quarters and, before you can tie a proper square knot, fall has arrived. You drop the rope into the lake and your skiff wanders away with the waves - somehow, you just don't care anymore...

If you find the approach of fall sends shivers down your psyche you may suffer from SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's a form of major depression that blows in with the winds of autumn and washes away with the spring rains. Scientific theories of its cause include the lack of sunlight during winter months, a disruption in the body's circadian rhythms and even an ancestral trait that causes the body to enter a form of hibernation.

How do you know if your sadness is the result of SAD and not just a passing low spot? The American Psychiatric Association has developed a set of standards by which SAD may be diagnosed. Among the symptoms to look for are these:


-Loss of interest in most previously enjoyed activities


-Increased appetite, especially for high-carbohydrate foods

-Weight gain

-Feelings of worthlessness

-Diminished ability to concentrate

Most significantly, the symptoms are seasonal. The onset of symptoms is both routine and predictable, as is the return to your normal state of wellbeing during the summer. If the symptoms persist throughout the year it is unlikely to be Seasonal Affective Disorder. A final clue - if you're a woman the chances of it being SAD are significantly higher. Women, for reasons not yet understood, are four times more likely to be affected by SAD then are men.

The most common treatment uses specially designed light boxes that emit high levels of white light. Fluorescent light, filtered to remove harmful ultraviolet rays, is delivered at an illumination of approximately 10,000 lux. For reference, a brightly lit office delivers about 400 lux, the lighting in a typical television studio 1,000 lux and sunlight between 32,000 and 100,000 lux, depending upon clouds. Other traditional treatments include medication and psychotherapy. Many have also benefited from spending more time outdoors, regular exercise and vacations to warmer locales.

Ah, vacations...

Your mind wanders back to those breezy days lolling about, gently drifting from here to wherever-the-tide-may-take-you. Possibly even, you imagine, along the same route your previously released skiff is currently traversing...

To read more about SAD, see this from Mayo Clinic.


Blogger sylvia c. said...


I think S.A.D. is something that many people face in the winter times. I've noticed, too, that it hits more women than men. Of course, it varies in degrees of intensity.

I crave the sun when it's been gone for more than a day, and have been known for taking a sun-bath when it finally does return!

Both my mom and I have agreed: we love the sun. Big windows, long walks, and great appreciation for those sunny days proves our dedication.

Which reminds me, great work on your dedication to this blog!

Great Article!


Sylvia C.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Tad Coles said...


Thanks for the nice article. You reminded me to turn up the watts for my own good. I checked out the Mayo Clinic site and found out there is a summertime SAD version with a similar but different set of signs. Good material presented in an easy-to-read format. My prediction - you are on your way to big places.



Tad B. Coles, DVM
Medical Writing
Regulatory Documentation
Veterinary Industry Consulting

1:10 PM  

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