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Let There Be Light: What You Need To Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

It seems and studies seem to confirm that our bodies and minds go through changes as do and according to the seasons. In fact, some statistics suggest that based on season alone, most individuals are more inclined to couple during the winter and “split” during the spring and summer.

In fact, experts suggest that our attitudes towards relationships and life are affected by temperatures, sunlight, etc and are associated with either spring fever or the winter blahs.

Let’s fact it, it’s much more encouraging to wake up to a nice sunny warm day with daylight that lasts well into the evening and temperatures that entice us toward the great and glorious outdoors.

Winter on the other hand, despite it being traditionally a time for home, friends and family is marked by dark days, dark nights, early sunsets and cold climates. In fact, most of us don’t necessarily feel like doing much. And, most of us may even be a little SAD.

That’s right, according to experts; seasonal affective disorder is for many more than just a simple case of the winter doldrums, but a real and clinically recognized type of depression.

Furthermore, the symptoms are tied to shorter and colder days. In fact, 10 to 20 percent of the U.S. population if likely to suffer from SAD symptoms, according to researchers, and the American Psychiatric Association. Plus, three of every four people with SAD tend to be women.

Professionals profess that the reduced exposure to light during the winter months throws off the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which acts as our internal body clock, and results in disturbances in sleep patterns, eating habits and mood.

Additionally, SAD has been observed in professionals who work in windowless facilities.

And, this phenomenon has led some professionals to look for a link between light, biochemistry and SAD symptoms. Some note that melatonin, a hormone in our bodies that is sensitive to light exposure may be a key culprit. And, a melatonin deficiency may lead to SAD symptoms such as fatigue, desire to sleep, lethargy and irritability. Seratonin, a neurotrasmitter is also connected to mood, and a deficiency can lead to cravings for sugar and carbohydrates adding to the SAD symptom of overeating. And, they add that people with SAD fare better with increased exposure to light

With light being an essential, experts note the effects of phototherapy or light therapy. While the light is simulated, the body’s response is real and it’s signaled to start producing its energizing hormones.

Formal treatment means being bombarded by artificial light controlled by a therapist initially for about 30 minutes in the early a.m. hours. Patients are also encouraged to get out as often as possible during the day and when the weather is nice. And, this type of light therapy has proven helpful for bipolar disorder and psoriasis, as well as for several other skin conditions.

Finally, in June of 2006 the Food and Drug Administration approved Wellburin XL, a drug that had been used previously for treating major depression, for the treatment of SAD.

Still, experts suggest speaking first with your family physician about your symptoms and whether medication, an alternative, or a combination of treatments is best for you.

Long Island Health, Fitness & Beauty Articles > Let There Be Light: What You Need To Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

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