"There's a certain Slant of light,
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes--
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us--
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are."
Like some other creatures of nature under the sun, we have evolved, incorporating the rhythms of night and day, darkness and light, cold and warmth, scarcity and abundance into the functioning of our bodies, and have been shaped by the seasonal changes for which we have developed mechanisms to deal with. Many of us respond to these differences through emotions and behavior; yet some of us suffer an unwelcome disruption of our lives through seasonal changes.
SAD, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or Winter Depression, is a type of depression which doesn't discriminate against class, race, or occupation. It affects both sexes, although it seems to favor women more than men. It gets worse in countries which are far from the equator, where there is a significant difference in the length of days from summer to winter. It sets on every year at the same time, often starting in fall or winter and ending in spring or early summer. For the sufferers, it is more than just the winter blues.
SAD was first described by Dr Norman Rosenthal at The National Institute of Mental Health. The exact cause of this condition is not known, but the lack of sunlight seems to play a strong role in bringing about the illness. One theory suggests that with decreased exposure to sunlight, the biological clock, which regulates mood, sleep, and hormones, runs more slowly in winter. Exposure to light may reset the delay in the biological clock.
Another theory is that neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which transmit information between nerves may be altered in individuals with SAD. It is believed that exposure to light can correct these imbalances.
People who suffer from SAD share many of the known signs of depression such as anxiety, sadness, loss of interest in their usual activities and withdrawal from social activities. Extreme fatigue and lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, increased need for sleep, a craving for carbohydrates, and weight gain are other symptoms of this disorder.
Many SAD sufferers come from a family where a parent or a close relative suffers from SAD. It is estimated that ten percent of the population in the United States have SAD. Doctors estimate that in United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, five percent of the population live with SAD. The variation between the countries may be due to the difference in awareness level of the population as well as the readiness of the sufferers to seek treatment for the disorder.
Sometimes physical problems can cause depression. But other times, symptoms of SAD are part of a more complex psychiatric problem. A health professional should be the one to determine the level of depression and recommend the right form of treatment.
If you have been diagnosed with SAD, here are some things you can do to help to prevent it from coming back:
1. Try to spend some amount of time outside every day, even when it's very cloudy. The effects of daylight are still beneficial.
2. Eat a well-balanced diet, including sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals as recommended by the USDA Food Guide. This will help you have more energy even though your body is craving starchy, sweet foods.
3. Try exercising for 30 minutes a day, three times a week.
4. Seek professional counseling, if needed, during the winter months.
5. Stay involved with your social circle and regular activities. This can be a great means of support during the cold, dark winter months.
Light therapy is an effective treatment for SAD as research now shows. Sometimes antidepressant medicine is used alone, or in combination with light therapy. Spending time outdoors during the day, as well as maximizing the amount of sunlight you're exposed to at home and in your work place can also be helpful.
Aromatherapy, treatment using scents, is a holistic treatment of the body with pleasant scented botanical oils such as lavender, lemon, peppermint and rose. The essential oils can be added to the bath, massaged into the skin, inhaled directly or diffused to scent an entire room. Aromatherapy helps to relieve the pain, alleviate tension and fatigue, reduce anxiety, promote relaxation and invigorate the entire body.
Despite all the modern discoveries in natural or medical remedies, it is still worthwhile to look back at ancient wisdom. As far as SAD is concerned, no ancient writer offered more compelling advice than the physician Aurus Cornelius Celsus did to melancholics during the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius.
"Live in rooms full of light
Avoid heavy food
Be moderate in the drinking of wine
Take massage, baths, exercise, and gymnastics
Fight insomnia with gentle rocking or the sound of running water
Change surroundings and take long journeys
Strictly avoid frightening ideas
Indulge in cheerful conversation and amusements
Listen to music"
I like the sound of pan flute very much, so here's a familiar piece to share.
The National Organization for Seasonal Affective Disorder -NOSAD- is a small non-profit organization dedicated to helping people affected by SAD find support and treatment for their illness. Its research group Society for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms has a website, which you can visit here .
Have a bright and cheerful Thanksgiving !
© 2010 Füsun Atalay ~ DictionMatters ~ All Rights Reserved