Seasonal Affective Disorder

What is it?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is characterized by recurring periods of depression usually found during winter, although a few cases have been noted in summer. It is found in about 4 to 10 percent of the general population. It is a bigger problem for women than for men. Women are about six times more likely to develop the disorder. Even though women experience depression more than men, this is far out of proportion with that difference (female to male overall depression rate is 2:1). Up to 38 percent of people receiving treatments for recurrent depression report seasonal changes. Some symptoms of the illness include overeating with or without carbohydrate craving, weight gain, and oversleeping.

Causes and Treatments
It is believed that these winter depressions are due to the lack of light from the shortened days of winter. An effective treatment is phototherapy. Phototherapy involves the use of bright light. Standard treatment involves exposure to the bright light source for 2 hours in the morning. Morning treatments seem to work better than evening treatments, although it is not understood why. However, the effectiveness of the treatment increases with increased light intensity and duration of exposure.

There are many commercial lightboxes on the market to help people with S.A.D. When purchasing a light box the key feature is that it should be at least 2500 lux. Lux is a measure of the intensity and energy of a light. Most products on the market are 10,000 lux. Of course, this is something one can get without a prescription or doctor's recommendation.

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