September 3, 2012
On August 22, 2011, I published the following article. It is even more true today than it was in 2011.
Today was a glorious day. The sun was shining, the sky blue, just the right amount of wispy white clouds. I love spring and summer. Sunlight invigorates me. I’m the happiest when I can sit outside, read, swim, or play in my garden. (Today, September 3, 2012, I did all three.) I get “SAD” when autumn approaches (and this year promises to be the worst, my son is moving to Atlanta). The gray Chicago skies make a lot of people “SAD”. Does the change of seasons affect you?
“SAD” is an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder. People who suffer with “SAD” are often unaware of its existence. According to MedicineNet.Com, the symptoms of “SAD” include “tiredness, fatigue, depression, crying spells, irritability, trouble concentrating, body aches, loss of sex drive, poor sleep, decreased activity level, and overeating, especially of carbohydrates, with associated weight gain. When the condition presents in the summer, the symptoms are more commonly insomnia, poor appetite, and weight loss, in addition to irritability, difficulty concentrating, and crying spells. In severe instances, seasonal affective disorder can be associated with thoughts of suicide.”
It is estimated that as many as 5% of adults suffer with “SAD” and 20% have some of the above symptoms. So, how do you know if you have “SAD”? “SAD” is cyclical with symptoms during fall and winter when days are shorter and sunlight is often hidden behind clouds. As spring approaches and daytime lengthens, symptoms resolve.
If you have symptoms of “SAD”, what can you do? Many of my patients use phototherapy by purchasing full spectrum lights. The lights are used for 4 hours every morning and are usually setup in the patient’s work space, and are positioned so that they deliver indirect lighting. The results of studies on phototherapy as a treatment for “SAD” are variable. Many of my patients find it beneficial. (This year, I plan on increasing my exercise regimen to combat "SAD".)
Some patients will require antidepressants. Antidepressants can be extremely helpful. Most of my patients who require antidepressants start them in August and stop taking them in March. As “SAD” is cyclical, counseling may help, as well.
I love phototherapy. The only drawback is that I want to linger at my desk too long. My office is papered with sailboats and pictures of the beach. I like to break up the winter by spending a week in November and January on a sunny beach. My 90 day plan keeps me from being too “SAD”.
So, don’t be “SAD” this winter! Be glad you read this article and find your own solution to the loss of sunlight and its effects on you, your family, and your friends.
Cabin fever? Maybe it’s “SAD”. Grumpy? Maybe you’re “SAD”. Fatigued? “SAD” may be the answer. Help is available. Read, learn and see your doc.