Friday, December 18, 2009
During the months of November to February, the days start
getting shorter and colder, and the nights longer and darker.
Climate changes seem to affect many people and they just can't
understand why they tend to feel gloomy and miserable. This mood disorder is called winter depression, or Seasonal Affective
According to Norman E. Rosenthal, the doctor who coined the term
SAD in 1984, winter depression has a sound medical basis that
involves changes in the body's mood centers brought on by
shorter daylight hours and a lack of sunlight. Most depressive
illness sufferers experience a sense of utter isolation and
loneliness. But the fact that many people go through the same
grumpiness during this time of the year provides a sense of
comfort and assurance that they are not alone. As the cliché
goes "misery loves company."
Based on statistics of SAD Association, 500,000 people in the
United Kingdom experience some form of winter depression, while
doctors have estimated that 20% of the population, or almost 2
million people, are affected in Sweden by this condition.
One of the most effective and clinically proven treatment for
SAD is "light therapy", which has been shown to benefit some
80-85 percent of SAD cases. Simple as it may sound, the
treatment actually involves more than just turning on a light
and sitting beside it while twiddling your thumbs as you wait
for that renewed energy to "power up" your whole well-being. The
average domestic or office light emits a paltry 200-500 lux (a
lux is a unit of illuminance,) whereas a minimum of 2,500 lux is
required to alleviate the symptoms of SAD. In comparison, a
clear summer's day can reach an intensity of 100,000 lux.
Based on these specs, a number of specially designed light boxes
have been invented that emit precisely the right amount of
illumination. Symptoms of SAD gradually subside by sitting in
front of one for about 30 minutes to several hours, depending on
the severity of the condition.
Light therapy may be the best treatment for SAD as far as
symptoms are concerned. However, addressing the root causes of
the condition may involve both anti-depressant drugs and
psychotherapy treatments especially for those with severe
Studies have shown that the incidence of SAD increases
dramatically as you go 30 degrees of latitude further north or
south, as the condition is virtually unheard of in the tropical
countries. A movement or vacation trip to these countries in the
equator may sound impractical but can definitely improve ones
mood and well-being.
Watching movies that feature warm, sunny, summery climates show
demonstrable improvements in mood. Research shows that any film
with clear blue cloudless skies, palm trees and an absence of
snow should qualify for a movie therapy.
The same mood-enhancing effect may result by simply watching
outdoor sports like cricket or golf. However, over-exposure to
snooker, darts, and indoor bowling has been found to bring on a
state of depressive, trance-like catatonia that, in severe
cases, culminates in complete mental health breakdown.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year;