Darkness sets in earlier these days and as winter approaches, people hunker down at home in warmer clothes or beside the fire. These images conjure up the warmth of the Holidays, but for many this season signifies the winter blues or what therapists refer to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Some common signs of SAD are:
1) General Sadness which, if it occurs every day for at least 2 weeks, is a sign of depression. If it occurs for that duration but only during certain times of the year it is likely to be SAD.
2) Anger and irritability which are a natural result of feeling down.
3) Increase in appetite.
4) Craving complex carbohydrates such as pasta or bread – often referred to as comfort foods. This can lead to weight gain which is also a marker for SAD.
5) Inability to concentrate or focus.
6) Drowsiness or fatigue which doesn’t necessarily result in sleep but instead insomnia.
7) Decrease in libido and general loss of interest in sex. Interestingly this only applies to SAD if it occurs in the fall and winter months. When SAD is present in the spring and summer it may actually cause an increased sex drive.
If you notice these symptoms in yourself then it is likely that you may suffer from SAD. Talk therapy and light therapy may be helpful in dealing with the symptoms. It is believed that one of the causes of SAD is the lack of exposure to outdoor light during the fall and winter months. The light has been shown to actually affect hormones such as melatonin and levels of vitamin D present in the body. These are things that alter behavior and mood.
New research has shown that blue light (in contrast to the yellow white light that we are typically exposed to indoors) may prove an effective treatment. The results from a recent study published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Science
have determined that blue light may be instrumental in assisting the brain to process emotions. It may actually be that spending more time under these blue lights could alleviate symptoms of SAD and become the most effective treatment. These studies are preliminary but the early results are very promising.